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Title: Eugenics and Other Evils

Author: G. K. Chesterton

Release Date: May 3, 2008 [EBook #25308]

Language: English


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Distributed Proofreading Team at (This
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Eugenics and
Other Evils


G.K. Chesterton

Cassell and Company, Limited
London, New York, Toronto & Melbourne


I publish these essays at the present time for a particular reason
connected with the present situation; a reason which I should like
briefly to emphasise and make clear.

Though most of the conclusions, especially towards the end, are
conceived with reference to recent events, the actual bulk of
preliminary notes about the science of Eugenics were written before
the war. It was a time when this theme was the topic of the hour; when
eugenic babies (not visibly very distinguishable from other babies)
sprawled all over the illustrated papers; when the evolutionary fancy
of Nietzsche was the new cry among the intellectuals; and when Mr.
Bernard Shaw and others were considering the idea that to breed a man
like a cart-horse was the true way to attain that higher civilisation,
of intellectual magnanimity and sympathetic insight, which may be
found in cart-horses. It may therefore appear that I took the opinion
too controversially, and it seems to me that I sometimes took it too
seriously. But the criticism of Eugenics soon expanded of itself into
a more general criticism of a modern craze for scientific officialism
and strict social organisation.

And then the hour came when I felt, not without relief, that I might
well fling all my notes into the fire. The fire was a very big one,
and was burning up bigger things than such pedantic quackeries. And,
anyhow, the issue itself was being settled in a very different style.
Scientific officialism and organisation in the State which had
specialised in them, had gone to war with the older culture of
Christendom. Either Prussianism would win and the protest would be
hopeless, or Prussianism would lose and the protest would be needless.
As the war advanced from poison gas to piracy against neutrals, it
grew more and more plain that the scientifically organised State was
not increasing in popularity. Whatever happened, no Englishmen would
ever again go nosing round the stinks of that low laboratory. So I
thought all I had written irrelevant, and put it out of my mind.

I am greatly grieved to say that it is not irrelevant. It has
gradually grown apparent, to my astounded gaze, that the ruling
classes in England are still proceeding on the assumption that Prussia
is a pattern for the whole world. If parts of my book are nearly nine
years old, most of their principles and proceedings are a great deal
older. They can offer us nothing but the same stuffy science, the same
bullying bureaucracy and the same terrorism by tenth-rate professors
that have led the German Empire to its recent conspicuous triumph. For
that reason, three years after the war with Prussia, I collect and
publish these papers.




The False Theory

CHAPTER                                        PAGE

1. WHAT IS EUGENICS?                                   3

2. THE FIRST OBSTACLES                                12

3. THE ANARCHY FROM ABOVE                             22

4. THE LUNATIC AND THE LAW                            31

5. THE FLYING AUTHORITY                               46

6. THE UNANSWERED CHALLENGE                           61

7. THE ESTABLISHED CHURCH OF DOUBT                    73

8. A SUMMARY OF A FALSE THEORY                        82


The Real Aim

1. THE IMPOTENCE OF IMPENITENCE                       91

2. TRUE HISTORY OF A TRAMP                           101

3. TRUE HISTORY OF A EUGENIST                        114

4. THE VENGEANCE OF THE FLESH                        126

5. THE MEANNESS OF THE MOTIVE                        136

6. THE ECLIPSE OF LIBERTY                            148

7. THE TRANSFORMATION OF SOCIALISM                   159

8. THE END OF THE HOUSEHOLD GODS                     169

9. A SHORT CHAPTER                                   180

Part I


Eugenics and Other Evils



The wisest thing in the world is to cry out before you are hurt. It is
no good to cry out after you are hurt; especially after you are
mortally hurt. People talk about the impatience of the populace; but
sound historians know that most tyrannies have been possible because
men moved too late. It is often essential to resist a tyranny before
it exists. It is no answer to say, with a distant optimism, that the
scheme is only in the air. A blow from a hatchet can only be parried
while it is in the air.

There exists to-day a scheme of action, a school of thought, as
collective and unmistakable as any of those by whose grouping alone we
can make any outline of history. It is as firm a fact as the Oxford
Movement, or the Puritans of the Long Parliament; or the Jansenists;
or the Jesuits. It is a thing that can be pointed out; it is a thing
that can be discussed; and it is a thing that can still be destroyed.
It is called for convenience "Eugenics"; and that it ought to be
destroyed I propose to prove in the pages that follow. I know that it
means very different things to different people; but that is only
because evil always takes advantage of ambiguity. I know it is praised
with high professions of idealism and benevolence; with silver-tongued
rhetoric about purer motherhood and a happier posterity. But that is
only because evil is always flattered, as the Furies were called "The
Gracious Ones." I know that it numbers many disciples whose intentions
are entirely innocent and humane; and who would be sincerely
astonished at my describing it as I do. But that is only because evil
always wins through the strength of its splendid dupes; and there has
in all ages been a disastrous alliance between abnormal innocence and
abnormal sin. Of these who are deceived I shall speak of course as we
all do of such instruments; judging them by the good they think they
are doing, and not by the evil which they really do. But Eugenics
itself does exist for those who have sense enough to see that ideas
exist; and Eugenics itself, in large quantities or small, coming
quickly or coming slowly, urged from good motives or bad, applied to a
thousand people or applied to three, Eugenics itself is a thing no
more to be bargained about than poisoning.

It is not really difficult to sum up the essence of Eugenics: though
some of the Eugenists seem to be rather vague about it. The movement
consists of two parts: a moral basis, which is common to all, and a
scheme of social application which varies a good deal. For the moral
basis, it is obvious that man's ethical responsibility varies with his
knowledge of consequences. If I were in charge of a baby (like Dr.
Johnson in that tower of vision), and if the baby was ill through
having eaten the soap, I might possibly send for a doctor. I might be
calling him away from much more serious cases, from the bedsides of
babies whose diet had been far more deadly; but I should be justified.
I could not be expected to know enough about his other patients to be
obliged (or even entitled) to sacrifice to them the baby for whom I
was primarily and directly responsible. Now the Eugenic moral basis is
this; that the baby for whom we are primarily and directly responsible
is the babe unborn. That is, that we know (or may come to know) enough
of certain inevitable tendencies in biology to consider the fruit of
some contemplated union in that direct and clear light of conscience
which we can now only fix on the other partner in that union. The one
duty can conceivably be as definite as or more definite than the
other. The baby that does not exist can be considered even before the
wife who does. Now it is essential to grasp that this is a
comparatively new note in morality. Of course sane people always
thought the aim of marriage was the procreation of children to the
glory of God or according to the plan of Nature; but whether they
counted such children as God's reward for service or Nature's premium
on sanity, they always left the reward to God or the premium to
Nature, as a less definable thing. The only person (and this is the
point) towards whom one could have precise duties was the partner in
the process. Directly considering the partner's claims was the nearest
one could get to indirectly considering the claims of posterity. If
the women of the harem sang praises of the hero as the Moslem mounted
his horse, it was because this was the due of a man; if the Christian
knight helped his wife off her horse, it was because this was the due
of a woman. Definite and detailed dues of this kind they did not
predicate of the babe unborn; regarding him in that agnostic and
opportunist light in which Mr. Browdie regarded the hypothetical child
of Miss Squeers. Thinking these sex relations healthy, they naturally
hoped they would produce healthy children; but that was all. The
Moslem woman doubtless expected Allah to send beautiful sons to an
obedient wife; but she would not have allowed any direct vision of
such sons to alter the obedience itself. She would not have said, "I
will now be a disobedient wife; as the learned leech informs me that
great prophets are often the children of disobedient wives." The
knight doubtless hoped that the saints would help him to strong
children, if he did all the duties of his station, one of which might
be helping his wife off her horse; but he would not have refrained
from doing this because he had read in a book that a course of falling
off horses often resulted in the birth of a genius. Both Moslem and
Christian would have thought such speculations not only impious but
utterly unpractical. I quite agree with them; but that is not the
point here.

The point here is that a new school believes Eugenics _against_
Ethics. And it is proved by one familiar fact: that the heroisms of
history are actually the crimes of Eugenics. The Eugenists' books and
articles are full of suggestions that non-eugenic unions should and
may come to be regarded as we regard sins; that we should really feel
that marrying an invalid is a kind of cruelty to children. But history
is full of the praises of people who have held sacred such ties to
invalids; of cases like those of Colonel Hutchinson and Sir William
Temple, who remained faithful to betrothals when beauty and health had
been apparently blasted. And though the illnesses of Dorothy Osborne
and Mrs. Hutchinson may not fall under the Eugenic speculations (I do
not know), it is obvious that they might have done so; and certainly
it would not have made any difference to men's moral opinion of the
act. I do not discuss here which morality I favour; but I insist that
they are opposite. The Eugenist really sets up as saints the very men
whom hundreds of families have called sneaks. To be consistent, they
ought to put up statues to the men who deserted their loves because of
bodily misfortune; with inscriptions celebrating the good Eugenist
who, on his fiancée falling off a bicycle, nobly refused to marry her;
or to the young hero who, on hearing of an uncle with erysipelas,
magnanimously broke his word. What is perfectly plain is this: that
mankind have hitherto held the bond between man and woman so sacred,
and the effect of it on the children so incalculable, that they have
always admired the maintenance of honour more than the maintenance of
safety. Doubtless they thought that even the children might be none
the worse for not being the children of cowards and shirkers; but this
was not the first thought, the first commandment. Briefly, we may say
that while many moral systems have set restraints on sex almost as
severe as any Eugenist could set, they have almost always had the
character of securing the fidelity of the two sexes to each other, and
leaving the rest to God. To introduce an ethic which makes that
fidelity or infidelity vary with some calculation about heredity is
that rarest of all things, a revolution that has not happened before.

It is only right to say here, though the matter should only be touched
on, that many Eugenists would contradict this, in so far as to claim
that there was a consciously Eugenic reason for the horror of those
unions which begin with the celebrated denial to man of the privilege
of marrying his grandmother. Dr. S.R. Steinmetz, with that creepy
simplicity of mind with which the Eugenists chill the blood, remarks
that "we do not yet know quite certainly" what were "the motives for
the horror of" that horrible thing which is the agony of Oedipus. With
entirely amiable intention, I ask Dr. S.R. Steinmetz to speak for
himself. I know the motives for regarding a mother or sister as
separate from other women; nor have I reached them by any curious
researches. I found them where I found an analogous aversion to eating
a baby for breakfast. I found them in a rooted detestation in the
human soul to liking a thing in one way, when you already like it in
another quite incompatible way. Now it is perfectly true that this
aversion may have acted eugenically; and so had a certain ultimate
confirmation and basis in the laws of procreation. But there really
cannot be any Eugenist quite so dull as not to see that this is not a
defence of Eugenics but a direct denial of Eugenics. If something
which has been discovered at last by the lamp of learning is something
which has been acted on from the first by the light of nature, this
(so far as it goes) is plainly not an argument for pestering people,
but an argument for letting them alone. If men did not marry their
grandmothers when it was, for all they knew, a most hygienic habit; if
we know now that they instinctly avoided scientific peril; that, so
far as it goes, is a point in favour of letting people marry anyone
they like. It is simply the statement that sexual selection, or what
Christians call falling in love, is a part of man which in the rough
and in the long run can be trusted. And that is the destruction of the
whole of this science at a blow.

The second part of the definition, the persuasive or coercive methods
to be employed, I shall deal with more fully in the second part of
this book. But some such summary as the following may here be useful.
Far into the unfathomable past of our race we find the assumption
that the founding of a family is the personal adventure of a free man.
Before slavery sank slowly out of sight under the new climate of
Christianity, it may or may not be true that slaves were in some sense
bred like cattle, valued as a promising stock for labour. If it was so
it was so in a much looser and vaguer sense than the breeding of the
Eugenists; and such modern philosophers read into the old paganism a
fantastic pride and cruelty which are wholly modern. It may be,
however, that pagan slaves had some shadow of the blessings of the
Eugenist's care. It is quite certain that the pagan freemen would have
killed the first man that suggested it. I mean suggested it seriously;
for Plato was only a Bernard Shaw who unfortunately made his jokes in
Greek. Among free men, the law, more often the creed, most commonly of
all the custom, have laid all sorts of restrictions on sex for this
reason or that. But law and creed and custom have never concentrated
heavily except upon fixing and keeping the family when once it had
been made. The act of founding the family, I repeat, was an individual
adventure outside the frontiers of the State. Our first forgotten
ancestors left this tradition behind them; and our own latest fathers
and mothers a few years ago would have thought us lunatics to be
discussing it. The shortest general definition of Eugenics on its
practical side is that it does, in a more or less degree, propose to
control some families at least as if they were families of pagan
slaves. I shall discuss later the question of the people to whom this
pressure may be applied; and the much more puzzling question of what
people will apply it. But it is to be applied at the very least by
somebody to somebody, and that on certain calculations about breeding
which are affirmed to be demonstrable. So much for the subject itself.
I say that this thing exists. I define it as closely as matters
involving moral evidence can be defined; I call it Eugenics. If after
that anyone chooses to say that Eugenics is not the Greek for this--I
am content to answer that "chivalrous" is not the French for "horsy";
and that such controversial games are more horsy than chivalrous.



Now before I set about arguing these things, there is a cloud of
skirmishers, of harmless and confused modern sceptics, who ought to be
cleared off or calmed down before we come to debate with the real
doctors of the heresy. If I sum up my statement thus: "Eugenics, as
discussed, evidently means the control of some men over the marriage
and unmarriage of others; and probably means the control of the few
over the marriage and unmarriage of the many," I shall first of all
receive the sort of answers that float like skim on the surface of
teacups and talk. I may very roughly and rapidly divide these
preliminary objectors into five sects; whom I will call the
Euphemists, the Casuists, the Autocrats, the Precedenters, and the
Endeavourers. When we have answered the immediate protestation of all
these good, shouting, short-sighted people, we can begin to do justice
to those intelligences that are really behind the idea.

Most Eugenists are Euphemists. I mean merely that short words startle
them, while long words soothe them. And they are utterly incapable of
translating the one into the other, however obviously they mean the
same thing. Say to them "The persuasive and even coercive powers of
the citizen should enable him to make sure that the burden of
longevity in the previous generation does not become disproportionate
and intolerable, especially to the females"; say this to them and they
will sway slightly to and fro like babies sent to sleep in cradles.
Say to them "Murder your mother," and they sit up quite suddenly. Yet
the two sentences, in cold logic, are exactly the same. Say to them
"It is not improbable that a period may arrive when the narrow if once
useful distinction between the anthropoid _homo_ and the other
animals, which has been modified on so many moral points, may be
modified also even in regard to the important question of the
extension of human diet"; say this to them, and beauty born of
murmuring sound will pass into their face. But say to them, in a
simple, manly, hearty way "Let's eat a man!" and their surprise is
quite surprising. Yet the sentences say just the same thing. Now, if
anyone thinks these two instances extravagant, I will refer to two
actual cases from the Eugenic discussions. When Sir Oliver Lodge spoke
of the methods "of the stud-farm" many Eugenists exclaimed against the
crudity of the suggestion. Yet long before that one of the ablest
champions in the other interest had written "What nonsense this
education is! Who could educate a racehorse or a greyhound?" Which
most certainly either means nothing, or the human stud-farm. Or again,
when I spoke of people "being married forcibly by the police," another
distinguished Eugenist almost achieved high spirits in his hearty
assurance that no such thing had ever come into their heads. Yet a few
days after I saw a Eugenist pronouncement, to the effect that the
State ought to extend its powers in this area. The State can only be
that corporation which men permit to employ compulsion; and this area
can only be the area of sexual selection. I mean somewhat more than an
idle jest when I say that the policeman will generally be found in
that area. But I willingly admit that the policeman who looks after
weddings will be like the policeman who looks after wedding-presents.
He will be in plain clothes. I do not mean that a man in blue with a
helmet will drag the bride and bridegroom to the altar. I do mean that
nobody that man in blue is told to arrest will even dare to come near
the church. Sir Oliver did not mean that men would be tied up in
stables and scrubbed down by grooms. He meant that they would undergo
a less of liberty which to men is even more infamous. He meant that
the only formula important to Eugenists would be "by Smith out of
Jones." Such a formula is one of the shortest in the world; and is
certainly the shortest way with the Euphemists.

The next sect of superficial objectors is even more irritating. I have
called them, for immediate purposes, the Casuists. Suppose I say "I
dislike this spread of Cannibalism in the West End restaurants."
Somebody is sure to say "Well, after all, Queen Eleanor when she
sucked blood from her husband's arm was a cannibal." What is one to
say to such people? One can only say "Confine yourself to sucking
poisoned blood from people's arms, and I permit you to call yourself
by the glorious title of Cannibal." In this sense people say of
Eugenics, "After all, whenever we discourage a schoolboy from marrying
a mad negress with a hump back, we are really Eugenists." Again one
can only answer, "Confine yourselves strictly to such schoolboys as
are naturally attracted to hump-backed negresses; and you may exult in
the title of Eugenist, all the more proudly because that distinction
will be rare." But surely anyone's common-sense must tell him that if
Eugenics dealt only with such extravagant cases, it would be called
common-sense--and not Eugenics. The human race has excluded such
absurdities for unknown ages; and has never yet called it Eugenics.
You may call it flogging when you hit a choking gentleman on the back;
you may call it torture when a man unfreezes his fingers at the fire;
but if you talk like that a little longer you will cease to live among
living men. If nothing but this mad minimum of accident were involved,
there would be no such thing as a Eugenic Congress, and certainly no
such thing as this book.

I had thought of calling the next sort of superficial people the
Idealists; but I think this implies a humility towards impersonal good
they hardly show; so I call them the Autocrats. They are those who
give us generally to understand that every modern reform will "work"
all right, because they will be there to see. Where they will be, and
for how long, they do not explain very clearly. I do not mind their
looking forward to numberless lives in succession; for that is the
shadow of a human or divine hope. But even a theosophist does not
expect to be a vast number of people at once. And these people most
certainly propose to be responsible for a whole movement after it has
left their hands. Each man promises to be about a thousand policemen.
If you ask them how this or that will work, they will answer, "Oh, I
would certainly insist on this"; or "I would never go so far as that";
as if they could return to this earth and do what no ghost has ever
done quite successfully--force men to forsake their sins. Of these it
is enough to say that they do not understand the nature of a law any
more than the nature of a dog. If you let loose a law, it will do as a
dog does. It will obey its own nature, not yours. Such sense as you
have put into the law (or the dog) will be fulfilled. But you will not
be able to fulfil a fragment of anything you have forgotten to put
into it.

Along with such idealists should go the strange people who seem to
think that you can consecrate and purify any campaign for ever by
repeating the names of the abstract virtues that its better advocates
had in mind. These people will say "So far from aiming at _slavery_,
the Eugenists are seeking _true_ liberty; liberty from disease and
degeneracy, etc." Or they will say "We can assure Mr. Chesterton that
the Eugenists have _no_ intention of segregating the harmless; justice
and mercy are the very motto of----" etc. To this kind of thing
perhaps the shortest answer is this. Many of those who speak thus are
agnostic or generally unsympathetic to official religion. Suppose one
of them said "The Church of England is full of hypocrisy." What would
he think of me if I answered, "I assure you that hypocrisy is
condemned by every form of Christianity; and is particularly
repudiated in the Prayer Book"? Suppose he said that the Church of
Rome had been guilty of great cruelties. What would he think of me if
I answered, "The Church is expressly bound to meekness and charity;
and therefore cannot be cruel"? This kind of people need not detain us
long. Then there are others whom I may call the Precedenters; who
flourish particularly in Parliament. They are best represented by the
solemn official who said the other day that he could not understand
the clamour against the Feeble-Minded Bill, as it only extended the
principles of the old Lunacy Laws. To which again one can only answer
"Quite so. It only extends the principles of the Lunacy Laws to
persons without a trace of lunacy." This lucid politician finds an old
law, let us say, about keeping lepers in quarantine. He simply alters
the word "lepers" to "long-nosed people," and says blandly that the
principle is the same.

Perhaps the weakest of all are those helpless persons whom I have
called the Endeavourers. The prize specimen of them was another M.P.
who defended the same Bill as "an honest attempt" to deal with a great
evil: as if one had a right to dragoon and enslave one's fellow
citizens as a kind of chemical experiment; in a state of reverent
agnosticism about what would come of it. But with this fatuous notion
that one can deliberately establish the Inquisition or the Terror, and
then faintly trust the larger hope, I shall have to deal more
seriously in a subsequent chapter. It is enough to say here that the
best thing the honest Endeavourer could do would be to make an honest
attempt to know what he is doing. And not to do anything else until he
has found out. Lastly, there is a class of controversialists so
hopeless and futile that I have really failed to find a name for them.
But whenever anyone attempts to argue rationally for or against any
existent and recognisable _thing_, such as the Eugenic class of
legislation, there are always people who begin to chop hay about
Socialism and Individualism; and say "_You_ object to all State
interference; _I_ am in favour of State interference. _You_ are an
Individualist; _I_, on the other hand," etc. To which I can only
answer, with heart-broken patience, that I am not an Individualist,
but a poor fallen but baptised journalist who is trying to write a
book about Eugenists, several of whom he has met; whereas he never met
an Individualist, and is by no means certain he would recognise him if
he did. In short, I do not deny, but strongly affirm, the right of the
State to interfere to cure a great evil. I say that in this case it
would interfere to create a great evil; and I am not going to be
turned from the discussion of that direct issue to bottomless
botherations about Socialism and Individualism, or the relative
advantages of always turning to the right and always turning to the

And for the rest, there is undoubtedly an enormous mass of sensible,
rather thoughtless people, whose rooted sentiment it is that any deep
change in our society must be in some way infinitely distant. They
cannot believe that men in hats and coats like themselves can be
preparing a revolution; all their Victorian philosophy has taught
them that such transformations are always slow. Therefore, when I
speak of Eugenic legislation, or the coming of the Eugenic State,
they think of it as something like _The Time Machine_ or _Looking
Backward_: a thing that, good or bad, will have to fit itself to
their great-great-great-grandchild, who may be very different and may
like it; and who in any case is rather a distant relative. To all
this I have, to begin with, a very short and simple answer. The
Eugenic State has begun. The first of the Eugenic Laws has already
been adopted by the Government of this country; and passed with the
applause of both parties through the dominant House of Parliament.
This first Eugenic Law clears the ground and may be said to proclaim
negative Eugenics; but it cannot be defended, and nobody has
attempted to defend it, except on the Eugenic theory. I will call it
the Feeble-Minded Bill both for brevity and because the description
is strictly accurate. It is, quite simply and literally, a Bill for
incarcerating as madmen those whom no doctor will consent to call
mad. It is enough if some doctor or other may happen to call them
weak-minded. Since there is scarcely any human being to whom this
term has not been conversationally applied by his own friends and
relatives on some occasion or other (unless his friends and relatives
have been lamentably lacking in spirit), it can be clearly seen that
this law, like the early Christian Church (to which, however, it
presents points of dissimilarity), is a net drawing in of all kinds.
It must not be supposed that we have a stricter definition
incorporated in the Bill. Indeed, the first definition of
"feeble-minded" in the Bill was much looser and vaguer than the
phrase "feeble-minded" itself. It is a piece of yawning idiocy about
"persons who though capable of earning their living under favourable
circumstances" (as if anyone could earn his living if circumstances
were directly unfavourable to his doing so), are nevertheless
"incapable of managing their affairs with proper prudence"; which is
exactly what all the world and his wife are saying about their
neighbours all over this planet. But as an incapacity for any kind of
thought is now regarded as statesmanship, there is nothing so very
novel about such slovenly drafting. What is novel and what is vital
is this: that the _defence_ of this crazy Coercion Act is a Eugenic
defence. It is not only openly said, it is eagerly urged, that the
aim of the measure is to prevent any person whom these propagandists
do not happen to think intelligent from having any wife or children.
Every tramp who is sulky, every labourer who is shy, every rustic who
is eccentric, can quite easily be brought under such conditions as
were designed for homicidal maniacs. That is the situation; and that
is the point. England has forgotten the Feudal State; it is in the
last anarchy of the Industrial State; there is much in Mr. Belloc's
theory that it is approaching the Servile State; it cannot at present
get at the Distributive State; it has almost certainly missed the
Socialist State. But we are already under the Eugenist State; and
nothing remains to us but rebellion.



A silent anarchy is eating out our society. I must pause upon the
expression; because the true nature of anarchy is mostly
misapprehended. It is not in the least necessary that anarchy should
be violent; nor is it necessary that it should come from below. A
government may grow anarchic as much as a people. The more sentimental
sort of Tory uses the word anarchy as a mere term of abuse for
rebellion; but he misses a most important intellectual distinction.
Rebellion may be wrong and disastrous; but even when rebellion is
wrong, it is never anarchy. When it is not self-defence, it is
usurpation. It aims at setting up a new rule in place of the old rule.
And while it cannot be anarchic in essence (because it has an aim), it
certainly cannot be anarchic in method; for men must be organised when
they fight; and the discipline in a rebel army has to be as good as
the discipline in the royal army. This deep principle of distinction
must be clearly kept in mind. Take for the sake of symbolism those two
great spiritual stories which, whether we count them myths or
mysteries, have so long been the two hinges of all European morals.
The Christian who is inclined to sympathise generally with
constituted authority will think of rebellion under the image of
Satan, the rebel against God. But Satan, though a traitor, was not an
anarchist. He claimed the crown of the cosmos; and had he prevailed,
would have expected his rebel angels to give up rebelling. On the
other hand, the Christian whose sympathies are more generally with
just self-defence among the oppressed will think rather of Christ
Himself defying the High Priests and scourging the rich traders. But
whether or no Christ was (as some say) a Socialist, He most certainly
was not an Anarchist. Christ, like Satan, claimed the throne. He set
up a new authority against an old authority; but He set it up with
positive commandments and a comprehensible scheme. In this light all
mediæval people--indeed, all people until a little while ago--would
have judged questions involving revolt. John Ball would have offered
to pull down the government because it was a bad government, not
because it was a government. Richard II. would have blamed Bolingbroke
not as a disturber of the peace, but as a usurper. Anarchy, then, in
the useful sense of the word, is a thing utterly distinct from any
rebellion, right or wrong. It is not necessarily angry; it is not, in
its first stages, at least, even necessarily painful. And, as I said
before, it is often entirely silent.

Anarchy is that condition of mind or methods in which you cannot stop
yourself. It is the loss of that self-control which can return to the
normal. It is not anarchy because men are permitted to begin uproar,
extravagance, experiment, peril. It is anarchy when people cannot
_end_ these things. It is not anarchy in the home if the whole family
sits up all night on New Year's Eve. It is anarchy in the home if
members of the family sit up later and later for months afterwards. It
was not anarchy in the Roman villa when, during the Saturnalia, the
slaves turned masters or the masters slaves. It was (from the
slave-owners' point of view) anarchy if, after the Saturnalia, the
slaves continued to behave in a Saturnalian manner; but it is
historically evident that they did not. It is not anarchy to have a
picnic; but it is anarchy to lose all memory of mealtimes. It would, I
think, be anarchy if (as is the disgusting suggestion of some) we all
took what we liked off the sideboard. That is the way swine would eat
if swine had sideboards; they have no immovable feasts; they are
uncommonly progressive, are swine. It is this inability to return
within rational limits after a legitimate extravagance that is the
really dangerous disorder. The modern world is like Niagara. It is
magnificent, but it is not strong. It is as weak as water--like
Niagara. The objection to a cataract is not that it is deafening or
dangerous or even destructive; it is that it cannot stop. Now it is
plain that this sort of chaos can possess the powers that rule a
society as easily as the society so ruled. And in modern England it is
the powers that rule who are chiefly possessed by it--who are truly
possessed by devils. The phrase, in its sound old psychological sense,
is not too strong. The State has suddenly and quietly gone mad. It is
talking nonsense; and it can't stop.

Now it is perfectly plain that government ought to have, and must
have, the same sort of right to use exceptional methods occasionally
that the private householder has to have a picnic or to sit up all
night on New Year's Eve. The State, like the householder, is sane if
it can treat such exceptions as exceptions. Such desperate remedies
may not even be right; but such remedies are endurable as long as they
are admittedly desperate. Such cases, of course, are the communism of
food in a besieged city; the official disavowal of an arrested spy;
the subjection of a patch of civil life to martial law; the cutting of
communication in a plague; or that deepest degradation of the
commonwealth, the use of national soldiers not against foreign
soldiers, but against their own brethren in revolt. Of these
exceptions some are right and some wrong; but all are right in so far
as they are taken as exceptions. The modern world is insane, not so
much because it admits the abnormal as because it cannot recover the

We see this in the vague extension of punishments like imprisonment;
often the very reformers who admit that prison is bad for people
propose to reform them by a little more of it. We see it in panic
legislation like that after the White Slave scare, when the torture of
flogging was revived for all sorts of ill defined and vague and
variegated types of men. Our fathers were never so mad, even when they
were torturers. They stretched the man out on the rack. They did not
stretch the rack out, as we are doing. When men went witch-burning
they may have seen witches everywhere--because their minds were fixed
on witchcraft. But they did not see things to burn everywhere, because
their minds were unfixed. While tying some very unpopular witch to the
stake, with the firm conviction that she was a spiritual tyranny and
pestilence, they did not say to each other, "A little burning is what
my Aunt Susan wants, to cure her of back-biting," or "Some of these
faggots would do your Cousin James good, and teach him to play with
poor girls' affections."

Now the name of all this is Anarchy. It not only does not know what it
wants, but it does not even know what it hates. It multiplies
excessively in the more American sort of English newspapers. When this
new sort of New Englander burns a witch the whole prairie catches
fire. These people have not the decision and detachment of the
doctrinal ages. They cannot do a monstrous action and still see it is
monstrous. Wherever they make a stride they make a rut. They cannot
stop their own thoughts, though their thoughts are pouring into the

A final instance, which can be sketched much more briefly, can be
found in this general fact: that the definition of almost every crime
has become more and more indefinite, and spreads like a flattening and
thinning cloud over larger and larger landscapes. Cruelty to children,
one would have thought, was a thing about as unmistakable, unusual
and appalling as parricide. In its application it has come to cover
almost every negligence that can occur in a needy household. The only
distinction is, of course, that these negligences are punished in the
poor, who generally can't help them, and not in the rich, who
generally can. But that is not the point I am arguing just now. The
point here is that a crime we all instinctively connect with Herod on
the bloody night of Innocents has come precious near being
attributable to Mary and Joseph when they lost their child in the
Temple. In the light of a fairly recent case (the confessedly kind
mother who was lately jailed because her confessedly healthy children
had no water to wash in) no one, I think, will call this an
illegitimate literary exaggeration. Now this is exactly as if all the
horror and heavy punishment, attached in the simplest tribes to
parricide, could now be used against any son who had done any act that
could colourably be supposed to have worried his father, and so
affected his health. Few of us would be safe.

Another case out of hundreds is the loose extension of the idea of
libel. Libel cases bear no more trace of the old and just anger
against the man who bore false witness against his neighbour than
"cruelty" cases do of the old and just horror of the parents that
hated their own flesh. A libel case has become one of the sports of
the less athletic rich--a variation on _baccarat_, a game of chance. A
music-hall actress got damages for a song that was called "vulgar,"
which is as if I could fine or imprison my neighbour for calling my
handwriting "rococo." A politician got huge damages because he was
said to have spoken to children about Tariff Reform; as if that
seductive topic would corrupt their virtue, like an indecent story.
Sometimes libel is defined as anything calculated to hurt a man in his
business; in which case any new tradesman calling himself a grocer
slanders the grocer opposite. All this, I say, is Anarchy; for it is
clear that its exponents possess no power of distinction, or sense of
proportion, by which they can draw the line between calling a woman a
popular singer and calling her a bad lot; or between charging a man
with leading infants to Protection and leading them to sin and shame.
But the vital point to which to return is this. That it is not
necessarily, nor even specially, an anarchy in the populace. It is an
anarchy in the organ of government. It is the magistrates--voices of
the governing class--who cannot distinguish between cruelty and
carelessness. It is the judges (and their very submissive special
juries) who cannot see the difference between opinion and slander. And
it is the highly placed and highly paid experts who have brought in
the first Eugenic Law, the Feeble-Minded Bill--thus showing that they
can see no difference between a mad and a sane man.

That, to begin with, is the historic atmosphere in which this thing
was born. It is a peculiar atmosphere, and luckily not likely to last.
Real progress bears the same relation to it that a happy girl laughing
bears to an hysterical girl who cannot stop laughing. But I have
described this atmosphere first because it is the only atmosphere in
which such a thing as the Eugenist legislation could be proposed among
men. All other ages would have called it to some kind of logical
account, however academic or narrow. The lowest sophist in the Greek
schools would remember enough of Socrates to force the Eugenist to
tell him (at least) whether Midias was segregated because he was
curable or because he was incurable. The meanest Thomist of the
mediæval monasteries would have the sense to see that you cannot
discuss a madman when you have not discussed a man. The most owlish
Calvinist commentator in the seventeenth century would ask the
Eugenist to reconcile such Bible texts as derided fools with the other
Bible texts that praised them. The dullest shopkeeper in Paris in 1790
would have asked what were the Rights of Man, if they did not include
the rights of the lover, the husband, and the father. It is only in
our own London Particular (as Mr. Guppy said of the fog) that small
figures can loom so large in the vapour, and even mingle with quite
different figures, and have the appearance of a mob. But, above all, I
have dwelt on the telescopic quality in these twilight avenues,
because unless the reader realises how elastic and unlimited they are,
he simply will not believe in the abominations we have to combat.

One of those wise old fairy tales, that come from nowhere and flourish
everywhere, tells how a man came to own a small magic machine like a
coffee-mill, which would grind anything he wanted when he said one
word and stop when he said another. After performing marvels (which I
wish my conscience would let me put into this book for padding) the
mill was merely asked to grind a few grains of salt at an officers'
mess on board ship; for salt is the type everywhere of small luxury
and exaggeration, and sailors' tales should be taken with a grain of
it. The man remembered the word that started the salt mill, and then,
touching the word that stopped it, suddenly remembered that he forgot.
The tall ship sank, laden and sparkling to the topmasts with salt like
Arctic snows; but the mad mill was still grinding at the ocean bottom,
where all the men lay drowned. And that (so says this fairy tale) is
why the great waters about our world have a bitter taste. For the
fairy tales knew what the modern mystics don't--that one should not
let loose either the supernatural or the natural.



The modern evil, we have said, greatly turns on this: that people do
not see that the exception proves the rule. Thus it may or may not be
right to kill a murderer; but it can only conceivably be right to kill
a murderer because it is wrong to kill a man. If the hangman, having
got his hand in, proceeded to hang friends and relatives to his taste
and fancy, he would (intellectually) unhang the first man, though the
first man might not think so. Or thus again, if you say an insane man
is irresponsible, you imply that a sane man is responsible. He is
responsible for the insane man. And the attempt of the Eugenists and
other fatalists to treat all men as irresponsible is the largest and
flattest folly in philosophy. The Eugenist has to treat everybody,
including himself, as an exception to a rule that isn't there.

The Eugenists, as a first move, have extended the frontiers of the
lunatic asylum: let us take this as our definite starting point, and
ask ourselves what lunacy is, and what is its fundamental relation to
human society. Now that raw juvenile scepticism that clogs all thought
with catchwords may often be heard to remark that the mad are only the
minority, the sane only the majority. There is a neat exactitude
about such people's nonsense; they seem to miss the point by magic.
The mad are not a minority because they are not a corporate body; and
that is what their madness means. The sane are not a majority; they
are mankind. And mankind (as its name would seem to imply) is a
_kind_, not a degree. In so far as the lunatic differs, he differs
from all minorities and majorities in kind. The madman who thinks he
is a knife cannot go into partnership with the other who thinks he is
a fork. There is no trysting place outside reason; there is no inn on
those wild roads that are beyond the world.

The madman is not he that defies the world. The saint, the criminal,
the martyr, the cynic, the nihilist may all defy the world quite
sanely. And even if such fanatics would destroy the world, the world
owes them a strictly fair trial according to proof and public law. But
the madman is not the man who defies the world; he is the man who
_denies_ it. Suppose we are all standing round a field and looking at
a tree in the middle of it. It is perfectly true that we all see it
(as the decadents say) in infinitely different aspects: that is not
the point; the point is that we all say it is a tree. Suppose, if you
will, that we are all poets, which seems improbable; so that each of
us could turn his aspect into a vivid image distinct from a tree.
Suppose one says it looks like a green cloud and another like a green
fountain, and a third like a green dragon and the fourth like a green
cheese. The fact remains: that they all say it _looks_ like these
things. It is a tree. Nor are any of the poets in the least mad
because of any opinions they may form, however frenzied, about the
functions or future of the tree. A conservative poet may wish to clip
the tree; a revolutionary poet may wish to burn it. An optimist poet
may want to make it a Christmas tree and hang candles on it. A
pessimist poet may want to hang himself on it. None of these are mad,
because they are all talking about the same thing. But there is
another man who is talking horribly about something else. There is a
monstrous exception to mankind. Why he is so we know not; a new theory
says it is heredity; an older theory says it is devils. But in any
case, the spirit of it is the spirit that denies, the spirit that
really denies realities. This is the man who looks at the tree and
does not say it looks like a lion, but says that it _is_ a lamp-post.

I do not mean that all mad delusions are as concrete as this, though
some are more concrete. Believing your own body is glass is a more
daring denial of reality than believing a tree is a glass lamp at the
top of a pole. But all true delusions have in them this unalterable
assertion--that what is not is. The difference between us and the
maniac is not about how things look or how things ought to look, but
about what they self-evidently are. The lunatic does not say that he
ought to be King; Perkin Warbeck might say that. He says he is King.
The lunatic does not say he is as wise as Shakespeare; Bernard Shaw
might say that. The lunatic says he _is_ Shakespeare. The lunatic
does not say he is divine in the same sense as Christ; Mr. R.J.
Campbell would say that. The lunatic says he _is_ Christ. In all cases
the difference is a difference about what is there; not a difference
touching what should be done about it.

For this reason, and for this alone, the lunatic is outside public
law. This is the abysmal difference between him and the criminal. The
criminal admits the facts, and therefore permits us to appeal to the
facts. We can so arrange the facts around him that he may really
understand that agreement is in his own interests. We can say to him,
"Do not steal apples from this tree, or we will hang you on that
tree." But if the man really thinks one tree is a lamp-post and the
other tree a Trafalgar Square fountain, we simply cannot treat with
him at all. It is obviously useless to say, "Do not steal apples from
this lamp-post, or I will hang you on that fountain." If a man denies
the facts, there is no answer but to lock him up. He cannot speak our
language: not that varying verbal language which often misses fire
even with us, but that enormous alphabet of sun and moon and green
grass and blue sky in which alone we meet, and by which alone we can
signal to each other. That unique man of genius, George Macdonald,
described in one of his weird stories two systems of space
co-incident; so that where I knew there was a piano standing in a
drawing-room you knew there was a rose-bush growing in a garden.
Something of this sort is in small or great affairs the matter with
the madman. He cannot have a vote, because he is the citizen of
another country. He is a foreigner. Nay, he is an invader and an
enemy; for the city he lives in has been super-imposed on ours.

Now these two things are primarily to be noted in his case. First,
that we can only condemn him to a _general_ doom, because we only know
his _general_ nature. All criminals, who do particular things for
particular reasons (things and reasons which, however criminal, are
always comprehensible), have been more and more tried for such
separate actions under separate and suitable laws ever since Europe
began to become a civilisation--and until the rare and recent
re-incursions of barbarism in such things as the Indeterminate
Sentence. Of that I shall speak later; it is enough for this argument
to point out the plain facts. It is the plain fact that every savage,
every sultan, every outlawed baron, every brigand-chief has always
used this instrument of the Indeterminate Sentence, which has been
recently offered us as something highly scientific and humane. All
these people, in short, being barbarians, have always kept their
captives captive until they (the barbarians) chose to think the
captives were in a fit frame of mind to come out. It is also the plain
fact that all that has been called civilisation or progress, justice
or liberty, for nearly three thousand years, has had the general
direction of treating even the captive as a free man, in so far as
some clear case of some defined crime had to be shown against him.
All law has meant allowing the criminal, within some limits or other,
to argue with the law: as Job was allowed, or rather challenged, to
argue with God. But the criminal is, among civilised men, tried by one
law for one crime for a perfectly simple reason: that the motive of
the crime, like the meaning of the law, is conceivable to the common
intelligence. A man is punished specially as a burglar, and not
generally as a bad man, because a man may be a burglar and in many
other respects not be a bad man. The act of burglary is punishable
because it is intelligible. But when acts are unintelligible, we can
only refer them to a general untrustworthiness, and guard against them
by a general restraint. If a man breaks into a house to get a piece of
bread, we can appeal to his reason in various ways. We can hang him
for housebreaking; or again (as has occurred to some daring thinkers)
we can give him a piece of bread. But if he breaks in, let us say, to
steal the parings of other people's finger nails, then we are in a
difficulty: we cannot imagine what he is going to do with them, and
therefore cannot easily imagine what we are going to do with him. If a
villain comes in, in cloak and mask, and puts a little arsenic in the
soup, we can collar him and say to him distinctly, "You are guilty of
Murder; and I will now consult the code of tribal law, under which we
live, to see if this practice is not forbidden." But if a man in the
same cloak and mask is found at midnight putting a little soda-water
in the soup, what can we say? Our charge necessarily becomes a more
general one. We can only observe, with a moderation almost amounting
to weakness, "You seem to be the sort of person who will do this sort
of thing." And then we can lock him up. The principle of the
indeterminate sentence is the creation of the indeterminate mind. It
does apply to the incomprehensible creature, the lunatic. And it
applies to nobody else.

The second thing to be noted is this: that it is only by the unanimity
of sane men that we can condemn this man as utterly separate. If he
says a tree is a lamp-post he is mad; but only because all other men
say it is a tree. If some men thought it was a tree with a lamp on it,
and others thought it was a lamp-post wreathed with branches and
vegetation, then it would be a matter of opinion and degree; and he
would not be mad, but merely extreme. Certainly he would not be mad if
nobody but a botanist could see it was a tree. Certainly his enemies
might be madder than he, if nobody but a lamplighter could see it was
not a lamp-post. And similarly a man is not imbecile if only a
Eugenist thinks so. The question then raised would not be his sanity,
but the sanity of one botanist or one lamplighter or one Eugenist.
That which can condemn the abnormally foolish is not the abnormally
clever, which is obviously a matter in dispute. That which can condemn
the abnormally foolish is the normally foolish. It is when he begins
to say and do things that even stupid people do not say or do, that we
have a right to treat him as the exception and not the rule. It is
only because we none of us profess to be anything more than man that
we have authority to treat him as something less.

Now the first principle behind Eugenics becomes plain enough. It is
the proposal that somebody or something should criticise men with the
same superiority with which men criticise madmen. It might exercise
this right with great moderation; but I am not here talking about the
exercise, but about the right. Its _claim_ certainly is to bring all
human life under the Lunacy Laws.

Now this is the first weakness in the case of the Eugenists: that they
cannot define who is to control whom; they cannot say by what
authority they do these things. They cannot see the exception is
different from the rule--even when it is misrule, even when it is an
unruly rule. The sound sense in the old Lunacy Law was this: that you
cannot deny that a man is a citizen until you are practically prepared
to deny that he is a man. Men, and only men, can be the judges of
whether he is a man. But any private club of prigs can be judges of
whether he ought to be a citizen. When once we step down from that
tall and splintered peak of pure insanity we step on to a tableland
where one man is not so widely different from another. Outside the
exception, what we find is the average. And the practical, legal shape
of the quarrel is this: that unless the normal men have the right to
expel the abnormal, what particular sort of abnormal men have the
right to expel the normal men? If sanity is not good enough, what is
there that is saner than sanity?

Without any grip of the notion of a rule and an exception, the general
idea of judging people's heredity breaks down and is useless. For this
reason: that if everything is the result of a doubtful heredity, the
judgment itself is the result of a doubtful heredity also. Let it
judge not that it be not judged. Eugenists, strange to say, have
fathers and mothers like other people; and our opinion about their
fathers and mothers is worth exactly as much as their opinions about
ours. None of the parents were lunatics, and the rest is mere likes
and dislikes. Suppose Dr. Saleeby had gone up to Byron and said, "My
lord, I perceive you have a club-foot and inordinate passions: such
are the hereditary results of a profligate soldier marrying a
hot-tempered woman." The poet might logically reply (with
characteristic lucidity and impropriety), "Sir, I perceive you have a
confused mind and an unphilosophic theory about other people's love
affairs. Such are the hereditary delusions bred by a Syrian doctor
marrying a Quaker lady from York." Suppose Dr. Karl Pearson had said
to Shelley, "From what I see of your temperament, you are running
great risks in forming a connection with the daughter of a fanatic and
eccentric like Godwin." Shelley would be employing the strict
rationalism of the older and stronger free thinkers, if he answered,
"From what I observe of your mind, you are rushing on destruction in
marrying the great-niece of an old corpse of a courtier and
dilettante like Samuel Rogers." It is only opinion for opinion. Nobody
can pretend that either Mary Godwin or Samuel Rogers was mad; and the
general view a man may hold about the healthiness of inheriting their
blood or type is simply the same sort of general view by which men do
marry for love or liking. There is no reason to suppose that Dr. Karl
Pearson is any better judge of a bridegroom than the bridegroom is of
a bride.

An objection may be anticipated here, but it is very easily answered.
It may be said that we do, in fact, call in medical specialists to
settle whether a man is mad; and that these specialists go by
technical and even secret tests that cannot be known to the mass of
men. It is obvious that this is true; it is equally obvious that it
does not affect our argument. When we ask the doctor whether our
grandfather is going mad, we still mean mad by our own common human
definition. We mean, is he going to be a certain sort of person whom
all men recognise when once he exists. That certain specialists can
detect the approach of him, before he exists, does not alter the fact
that it is of the practical and popular madman that we are talking,
and of him alone. The doctor merely sees a certain fact potentially in
the future, while we, with less information, can only see it in the
present; but his fact is our fact and everybody's fact, or we should
not bother about it at all. Here is no question of the doctor bringing
an entirely new sort of person under coercion, as in the
Feeble-Minded Bill. The doctor can say, "Tobacco is death to you,"
because the dislike of death can be taken for granted, being a highly
democratic institution; and it is the same with the dislike of the
indubitable exception called madness. The doctor can say, "Jones has
that twitch in the nerves, and he may burn down the house." But it is
not the medical detail we fear, but the moral upshot. We should say,
"Let him twitch, as long as he doesn't burn down the house." The
doctor may say, "He has that look in the eyes, and he may take the
hatchet and brain you all." But we do not object to the look in the
eyes as such; we object to consequences which, once come, we should
all call insane if there were no doctors in the world. We should say,
"Let him look how he likes; as long as he does not look for the

Now, that specialists are valuable for this particular and practical
purpose, of predicting the approach of enormous and admitted human
calamities, nobody but a fool would deny. But that does not bring us
one inch nearer to allowing them the right to define what is a
calamity; or to call things calamities which common sense does not
call calamities. We call in the doctor to save us from death; and,
death being admittedly an evil, he has the right to administer the
queerest and most recondite pill which he may think is a cure for all
such menaces of death. He has not the right to administer death, as
the cure for all human ills. And as he has no moral authority to
enforce a new conception of happiness, so he has no moral authority
to enforce a new conception of sanity. He may know I am going mad; for
madness is an isolated thing like leprosy; and I know nothing about
leprosy. But if he merely thinks my mind is weak, I may happen to
think the same of his. I often do.

In short, unless pilots are to be permitted to ram ships on to the
rocks and then say that heaven is the only true harbour; unless judges
are to be allowed to let murderers loose, and explain afterwards that
the murder had done good on the whole; unless soldiers are to be
allowed to lose battles and then point out that true glory is to be
found in the valley of humiliation; unless cashiers are to rob a bank
in order to give it an advertisement; or dentists to torture people to
give them a contrast to their comforts; unless we are prepared to let
loose all these private fancies against the public and accepted
meaning of life or safety or prosperity or pleasure--then it is as
plain as Punch's nose that no scientific man must be allowed to meddle
with the public definition of madness. We call him in to tell us where
it is or when it is. We could not do so, if we had not ourselves
settled what it is.

As I wish to confine myself in this chapter to the primary point of
the plain existence of sanity and insanity, I will not be led along
any of the attractive paths that open here. I shall endeavour to deal
with them in the next chapter. Here I confine myself to a sort of
summary. Suppose a man's throat has been cut, quite swiftly and
suddenly, with a table knife, at a small table where we sit. The
whole of civil law rests on the supposition that we are witnesses;
that we saw it; and if we do not know about it, who does? Now suppose
all the witnesses fall into a quarrel about degrees of eyesight.
Suppose one says he had brought his reading-glasses instead of his
usual glasses; and therefore did not see the man fall across the table
and cover it with blood. Suppose another says he could not be certain
it was blood, because a slight colour-blindness was hereditary in his
family. Suppose a third says he cannot swear to the uplifted knife,
because his oculist tells him he is astigmatic, and vertical lines do
not affect him as do horizontal lines. Suppose another says that dots
have often danced before his eyes in very fantastic combinations, many
of which were very like one gentleman cutting another gentleman's
throat at dinner. All these things refer to real experiences. There is
such a thing as myopia; there is such a thing as colour-blindness;
there is such a thing as astigmatism; there is such a thing as
shifting shapes swimming before the eyes. But what should we think of
a whole dinner party that could give nothing except these highly
scientific explanations when found in company with a corpse? I imagine
there are only two things we could think: either that they were all
drunk, or they were all murderers.

And yet there is an exception. If there were one man at table who was
admittedly _blind_, should we not give him the benefit of the doubt?
Should we not honestly feel that he was the exception that proved the
rule? The very fact that he could not have seen would remind us that
the other men must have seen. The very fact that he had no eyes must
remind us of eyes. A man can be blind; a man can be dead; a man can be
mad. But the comparison is necessarily weak, after all. For it is the
essence of madness to be unlike anything else in the world: which is
perhaps why so many men wiser than we have traced it to another.

Lastly, the literal maniac is different from all other persons in
dispute in this vital respect: that he is the only person whom we can,
with a final lucidity, declare that we do not want. He is almost
always miserable himself, and he always makes others miserable. But
this is not so with the mere invalid. The Eugenists would probably
answer all my examples by taking the case of marrying into a family
with consumption (or some such disease which they are fairly sure is
hereditary) and asking whether such cases at least are not clear cases
for a Eugenic intervention. Permit me to point out to them that they
once more make a confusion of thought. The sickness or soundness of a
consumptive may be a clear and calculable matter. The happiness or
unhappiness of a consumptive is quite another matter, and is not
calculable at all. What is the good of telling people that if they
marry for love, they may be punished by being the parents of Keats or
the parents of Stevenson? Keats died young; but he had more pleasure
in a minute than a Eugenist gets in a month. Stevenson had
lung-trouble; and it may, for all I know, have been perceptible to the
Eugenic eye even a generation before. But who would perform that
illegal operation: the stopping of Stevenson? Intercepting a letter
bursting with good news, confiscating a hamper full of presents and
prizes, pouring torrents of intoxicating wine into the sea, all this
is a faint approximation for the Eugenic inaction of the ancestors of
Stevenson. This, however, is not the essential point; with Stevenson
it is not merely a case of the pleasure we get, but of the pleasure he
got. If he had died without writing a line, he would have had more
red-hot joy than is given to most men. Shall I say of him, to whom I
owe so much, let the day perish wherein he was born? Shall I pray that
the stars of the twilight thereof be dark and it be not numbered among
the days of the year, because it shut not up the doors of his mother's
womb? I respectfully decline; like Job, I will put my hand upon my



It happened one day that an atheist and a man were standing together
on a doorstep; and the atheist said, "It is raining." To which the man
replied, "What is raining?": which question was the beginning of a
violent quarrel and a lasting friendship. I will not touch upon any
heads of the dispute, which doubtless included Jupiter Pluvius, the
Neuter Gender, Pantheism, Noah's Ark, Mackintoshes, and the Passive
Mood; but I will record the one point upon which the two persons
emerged in some agreement. It was that there is such a thing as an
atheistic literary style; that materialism may appear in the mere
diction of a man, though he be speaking of clocks or cats or anything
quite remote from theology. The mark of the atheistic style is that it
instinctively chooses the word which suggests that things are dead
things; that things have no souls. Thus they will not speak of waging
war, which means willing it; they speak of the "outbreak of war," as
if all the guns blew up without the men touching them. Thus those
Socialists that are atheist will not call their international
sympathy, sympathy; they will call it "solidarity," as if the poor men
of France and Germany were physically stuck together like dates in a
grocer's shop. The same Marxian Socialists are accused of cursing the
Capitalists inordinately; but the truth is that they let the
Capitalists off much too easily. For instead of saying that employers
pay less wages, which might pin the employers to some moral
responsibility, they insist on talking about the "rise and fall" of
wages; as if a vast silver sea of sixpences and shillings was always
going up and down automatically like the real sea at Margate. Thus
they will not speak of reform, but of development; and they spoil
their one honest and virile phrase, "the class war," by talking of it
as no one in his wits can talk of a war, predicting its finish and
final result as one calculates the coming of Christmas Day or the
taxes. Thus, lastly (as we shall see touching our special
subject-matter here) the atheist style in letters always avoids
talking of love or lust, which are things alive, and calls marriage or
concubinage "the relations of the sexes"; as if a man and a woman were
two wooden objects standing in a certain angle and attitude to each
other, like a table and a chair.

Now the same anarchic mystery that clings round the phrase, "_il
pleut_," clings round the phrase, "_il faut_." In English it is
generally represented by the passive mood in grammar, and the
Eugenists and their like deal especially in it; they are as passive in
their statements as they are active in their experiments. Their
sentences always enter tail first, and have no subject, like animals
without heads. It is never "the doctor should cut off this leg" or
"the policeman should collar that man." It is always "Such limbs
should be amputated," or "Such men should be under restraint." Hamlet
said, "I should have fatted all the region kites with this slave's
offal." The Eugenist would say, "The region kites should, if possible,
be fattened; and the offal of this slave is available for the dietetic
experiment." Lady Macbeth said, "Give me the daggers; I'll let his
bowels out." The Eugenist would say, "In such cases the bowels should,
etc." Do not blame me for the repulsiveness of the comparisons. I have
searched English literature for the most decent parallels to Eugenist

The formless god that broods over the East is called "Om." The
formless god who has begun to brood over the West is called "On." But
here we must make a distinction. The impersonal word _on_ is French,
and the French have a right to use it, because they are a democracy.
And when a Frenchman says "one" he does not mean himself, but the
normal citizen. He does not mean merely "one," but one and all. "_On
n'a que sa parole_" does not mean "_Noblesse oblige_," or "I am the
Duke of Billingsgate and must keep my word." It means: "One has a
sense of honour as one has a backbone: every man, rich or poor, should
feel honourable"; and this, whether possible or no, is the purest
ambition of the republic. But when the Eugenists say, "Conditions
must be altered" or "Ancestry should be investigated," or what not, it
seems clear that they do not mean that the democracy must do it,
whatever else they may mean. They do not mean that any man not
evidently mad may be trusted with these tests and re-arrangements, as
the French democratic system trusts such a man with a vote or a farm
or the control of a family. That would mean that Jones and Brown,
being both ordinary men, would set about arranging each other's
marriages. And this state of affairs would seem a little elaborate,
and it might occur even to the Eugenic mind that if Jones and Brown
are quite capable of arranging each other's marriages, it is just
possible that they might be capable of arranging their own.

This dilemma, which applies in so simple a case, applies equally to
any wide and sweeping system of Eugenist voting; for though it is true
that the community can judge more dispassionately than a man can judge
in his own case, this particular question of the choice of a wife is
so full of disputable shades in every conceivable case, that it is
surely obvious that almost any democracy would simply vote the thing
out of the sphere of voting, as they would any proposal of police
interference in the choice of walking weather or of children's names.
I should not like to be the politician who should propose a particular
instance of Eugenics to be voted on by the French people. Democracy
dismissed, it is here hardly needful to consider the other old models.
Modern scientists will not say that George III., in his lucid
intervals, should settle who is mad; or that the aristocracy that
introduced gout shall supervise diet.

I hold it clear, therefore, if anything is clear about the business,
that the Eugenists do not merely mean that the mass of common men
should settle each other's marriages between them; the question
remains, therefore, whom they do instinctively trust when they say
that this or that ought to be done. What is this flying and evanescent
authority that vanishes wherever we seek to fix it? Who is the man who
is the lost subject that governs the Eugenist's verb? In a large
number of cases I think we can simply say that the individual Eugenist
means himself, and nobody else. Indeed one Eugenist, Mr. A.H. Huth,
actually had a sense of humour, and admitted this. He thinks a great
deal of good could be done with a surgical knife, if we would only
turn him loose with one. And this may be true. A great deal of good
could be done with a loaded revolver, in the hands of a judicious
student of human nature. But it is imperative that the Eugenist should
perceive that on that principle we can never get beyond a perfect
balance of different sympathies and antipathies. I mean that I should
differ from Dr. Saleeby or Dr. Karl Pearson not only in a vast
majority of individual cases, but in a vast majority of cases in which
they would be bound to admit that such a difference was natural and
reasonable. The chief victim of these famous doctors would be a yet
more famous doctor: that eminent though unpopular practitioner, Dr.

To show that such rational and serious differences do exist, I will
take one instance from that Bill which proposed to protect families
and the public generally from the burden of feeble-minded persons.
Now, even if I could share the Eugenic contempt for human rights, even
if I could start gaily on the Eugenic campaign, I should not begin by
removing feeble-minded persons. I have known as many families in as
many classes as most men; and I cannot remember meeting any very
monstrous human suffering arising out of the presence of such
insufficient and negative types. There seem to be comparatively few of
them; and those few by no means the worst burdens upon domestic
happiness. I do not hear of them often; I do not hear of them doing
much more harm than good; and in the few cases I know well they are
not only regarded with human affection, but can be put to certain
limited forms of human use. Even if I were a Eugenist, then I should
not personally elect to waste my time locking up the feeble-minded.
The people I should lock up would be the strong-minded. I have known
hardly any cases of mere mental weakness making a family a failure; I
have known eight or nine cases of violent and exaggerated force of
character making a family a hell. If the strong-minded could be
segregated it would quite certainly be better for their friends and
families. And if there is really anything in heredity, it would be
better for posterity too. For the kind of egoist I mean is a madman
in a much more plausible sense than the mere harmless "deficient"; and
to hand on the horrors of his anarchic and insatiable temperament is a
much graver responsibility than to leave a mere inheritance of
childishness. I would not arrest such tyrants, because I think that
even moral tyranny in a few homes is better than a medical tyranny
turning the state into a madhouse. I would not segregate them, because
I respect a man's free-will and his front-door and his right to be
tried by his peers. But since free-will is believed by Eugenists no
more than by Calvinists, since front-doors are respected by Eugenists
no more than by house-breakers, and since the Habeas Corpus is about
as sacred to Eugenists as it would be to King John, why do not _they_
bring light and peace into so many human homes by removing a demoniac
from each of them? Why do not the promoters of the Feeble-Minded Bill
call at the many grand houses in town or country where such nightmares
notoriously are? Why do they not knock at the door and take the bad
squire away? Why do they not ring the bell and remove the dipsomaniac
prize-fighter? I do not know; and there is only one reason I can think
of, which must remain a matter of speculation. When I was at school,
the kind of boy who liked teasing half-wits was not the sort that
stood up to bullies.

That, however it may be, does not concern my argument. I mention the
case of the strong-minded variety of the monstrous merely to give one
out of the hundred cases of the instant divergence of individual
opinions the moment we begin to discuss who is fit or unfit to
propagate. If Dr. Saleeby and I were setting out on a segregating trip
together, we should separate at the very door; and if he had a
thousand doctors with him, they would all go different ways. Everyone
who has known as many kind and capable doctors as I have, knows that
the ablest and sanest of them have a tendency to possess some little
hobby or half-discovery of their own, as that oranges are bad for
children, or that trees are dangerous in gardens, or that many more
people ought to wear spectacles. It is asking too much of human nature
to expect them not to cherish such scraps of originality in a hard,
dull, and often heroic trade. But the inevitable result of it, as
exercised by the individual Saleebys, would be that each man would
have his favourite kind of idiot. Each doctor would be mad on his own
madman. One would have his eye on devotional curates; another would
wander about collecting obstreperous majors; a third would be the
terror of animal-loving spinsters, who would flee with all their cats
and dogs before him. Short of sheer literal anarchy, therefore, it
seems plain that the Eugenist must find some authority other than his
own implied personality. He must, once and for all, learn the lesson
which is hardest for him and me and for all our fallen race--the fact
that he is only himself.

We now pass from mere individual men who obviously cannot be trusted,
even if they are individual medical men, with such despotism over
their neighbours; and we come to consider whether the Eugenists have
at all clearly traced any more imaginable public authority, any
apparatus of great experts or great examinations to which such risks
of tyranny could be trusted. They are not very precise about this
either; indeed, the great difficulty I have throughout in considering
what are the Eugenist's proposals is that they do not seem to know
themselves. Some philosophic attitude which I cannot myself connect
with human reason seems to make them actually proud of the dimness of
their definitions and the uncompleteness of their plans. The Eugenic
optimism seems to partake generally of the nature of that dazzled and
confused confidence, so common in private theatricals, that it will be
all right on the night. They have all the ancient despotism, but none
of the ancient dogmatism. If they are ready to reproduce the secrecies
and cruelties of the Inquisition, at least we cannot accuse them of
offending us with any of that close and complicated thought, that arid
and exact logic which narrowed the minds of the Middle Ages; they have
discovered how to combine the hardening of the heart with a
sympathetic softening of the head. Nevertheless, there is one large,
though vague, idea of the Eugenists, which is an idea, and which we
reach when we reach this problem of a more general supervision.

It was best presented perhaps by the distinguished doctor who wrote
the article on these matters in that composite book which Mr. Wells
edited, and called "The Great State." He said the doctor should no
longer be a mere plasterer of paltry maladies, but should be, in his
own words, "the health adviser of the community." The same can be
expressed with even more point and simplicity in the proverb that
prevention is better than cure. Commenting on this, I said that it
amounted to treating all people who are well as if they were ill. This
the writer admitted to be true, only adding that everyone is ill. To
which I rejoin that if everyone is ill the health adviser is ill too,
and therefore cannot know how to cure that minimum of illness. This is
the fundamental fallacy in the whole business of preventive medicine.
Prevention is not better than cure. Cutting off a man's head is not
better than curing his headache; it is not even better than failing to
cure it. And it is the same if a man is in revolt, even a morbid
revolt. Taking the heart out of him by slavery is not better than
leaving the heart in him, even if you leave it a broken heart.
Prevention is not only not better than cure; prevention is even worse
than disease. Prevention means being an invalid for life, with the
extra exasperation of being quite well. I will ask God, but certainly
not man, to prevent me in all my doings. But the decisive and
discussable form of this is well summed up in that phrase about the
health adviser of society. I am sure that those who speak thus have
something in their minds larger and more illuminating than the other
two propositions we have considered. They do not mean that all
citizens should decide, which would mean merely the present vague and
dubious balance. They do not mean that all medical men should decide,
which would mean a much more unbalanced balance. They mean that a few
men might be found who had a consistent scheme and vision of a healthy
nation, as Napoleon had a consistent scheme and vision of an army. It
is cold anarchy to say that all men are to meddle in all men's
marriages. It is cold anarchy to say that any doctor may seize and
segregate anyone he likes. But it is not anarchy to say that a few
great hygienists might enclose or limit the life of all citizens, as
nurses do with a family of children. It is not anarchy, it is tyranny;
but tyranny is a workable thing. When we ask by what process such men
could be certainly chosen, we are back again on the old dilemma of
despotism, which means a man, or democracy which means men, or
aristocracy which means favouritism. But as a vision the thing is
plausible and even rational. It is rational, and it is wrong.

It is wrong, quite apart from the suggestion that an expert on health
cannot be chosen. It is wrong because an expert on health cannot
exist. An expert on disease can exist, for the very reason we have
already considered in the case of madness, because experts can only
arise out of exceptional things. A parallel with any of the other
learned professions will make the point plain. If I am prosecuted for
trespass, I will ask my solicitor which of the local lanes I am
forbidden to walk in. But if my solicitor, having gained my case, were
so elated that he insisted on settling what lanes I should walk in; if
he asked me to let him map out all my country walks, because he was
the perambulatory adviser of the community--then that solicitor would
solicit in vain. If he will insist on walking behind me through
woodland ways, pointing out with his walking-stick likely avenues and
attractive short-cuts, I shall turn on him with passion, saying: "Sir,
I pay you to know one particular puzzle in Latin and Norman-French,
which they call the law of England; and you do know the law of
England. I have never had any earthly reason to suppose that you know
England. If you did, you would leave a man alone when he was looking
at it." As are the limits of the lawyer's special knowledge about
walking, so are the limits of the doctor's. If I fall over the stump
of a tree and break my leg, as is likely enough, I shall say to the
lawyer, "Please go and fetch the doctor." I shall do it because the
doctor really has a larger knowledge of a narrower area. There are
only a certain number of ways in which a leg can be broken; I know
none of them, and he knows all of them. There is such a thing as being
a specialist in broken legs. There is no such thing as being a
specialist in legs. When unbroken, legs are a matter of taste. If the
doctor has really mended my leg, he may merit a colossal equestrian
statue on the top of an eternal tower of brass. But if the doctor has
really mended my leg he has no more rights over it. He must not come
and teach me how to walk; because he and I learnt that in the same
school, the nursery. And there is no more abstract likelihood of the
doctor walking more elegantly than I do than there is of the barber or
the bishop or the burglar walking more elegantly than I do. There
cannot be a general specialist; the specialist can have no kind of
authority, unless he has avowedly limited his range. There cannot be
such a thing as the health adviser of the community, because there
cannot be such a thing as one who specialises in the universe.

Thus when Dr. Saleeby says that a young man about to be married should
be obliged to produce his health-book as he does his bank-book, the
expression is neat; but it does not convey the real respects in which
the two things agree, and in which they differ. To begin with, of
course, there is a great deal too much of the bank-book for the sanity
of our commonwealth; and it is highly probable that the health-book,
as conducted in modern conditions, would rapidly become as timid, as
snobbish, and as sterile as the money side of marriage has become. In
the moral atmosphere of modernity the poor and the honest would
probably get as much the worst of it if we fought with health-books as
they do when we fight with bank-books. But that is a more general
matter; the real point is in the difference between the two. The
difference is in this vital fact: that a monied man generally thinks
about money, whereas a healthy man does not think about health. If
the strong young man cannot produce his health-book, it is for the
perfectly simple reason that he has not got one. He can mention some
extraordinary malady he has; but every man of honour is expected to do
that now, whatever may be the decision that follows on the knowledge.

Health is simply Nature, and no naturalist ought to have the impudence
to understand it. Health, one may say, is God; and no agnostic has any
right to claim His acquaintance. For God must mean, among other
things, that mystical and multitudinous balance of all things, by
which they are at least able to stand up straight and endure; and any
scientist who pretends to have exhausted this subject of ultimate
sanity, I will call the lowest of religious fanatics. I will allow him
to understand the madman, for the madman is an exception. But if he
says he understands the sane man, then he says he has the secret of
the Creator. For whenever you and I feel fully sane, we are quite
incapable of naming the elements that make up that mysterious
simplicity. We can no more analyse such peace in the soul than we can
conceive in our heads the whole enormous and dizzy equilibrium by
which, out of suns roaring like infernos and heavens toppling like
precipices, He has hanged the world upon nothing.

We conclude, therefore, that unless Eugenic activity be restricted to
monstrous things like mania, there is no constituted or constitutable
authority that can really over-rule men in a matter in which they are
so largely on a level. In the matter of fundamental human rights,
nothing can be above Man, except God. An institution claiming to come
from God might have such authority; but this is the last claim the
Eugenists are likely to make. One caste or one profession seeking to
rule men in such matters is like a man's right eye claiming to rule
him, or his left leg to run away with him. It is madness. We now pass
on to consider whether there is really anything in the way of Eugenics
to be done, with such cheerfulness as we may possess after discovering
that there is nobody to do it.



Dr. Saleeby did me the honour of referring to me in one of his
addresses on this subject, and said that even I cannot produce any but
a feeble-minded child from a feeble-minded ancestry. To which I reply,
first of all, that he cannot produce a feeble-minded child. The whole
point of our contention is that this phrase conveys nothing fixed and
outside opinion. There is such a thing as mania, which has always been
segregated; there is such a thing as idiotcy, which has always been
segregated; but feeble-mindedness is a new phrase under which you
might segregate anybody. It is essential that this fundamental fallacy
in the use of statistics should be got somehow into the modern mind.
Such people must be made to see the point, which is surely plain
enough, that it is useless to have exact figures if they are exact
figures about an inexact phrase. If I say, "There are five fools in
Acton," it is surely quite clear that, though no mathematician can
make five the same as four or six, that will not stop you or anyone
else from finding a few more fools in Acton. Now weak-mindedness, like
folly, is a term divided from madness in this vital manner--that in
one sense it applies to all men, in another to most men, in another
to very many men, and so on. It is as if Dr. Saleeby were to say,
"Vanity, I find, is undoubtedly hereditary. Here is Mrs. Jones, who
was very sensitive about her sonnets being criticised, and I found her
little daughter in a new frock looking in the glass. The experiment is
conclusive, the demonstration is complete; there in the first
generation is the artistic temperament--that is vanity; and there in
the second generation is dress--and that is vanity." We should answer,
"My friend, all is vanity, vanity and vexation of spirit--especially
when one has to listen to logic of your favourite kind. Obviously all
human beings must value themselves; and obviously there is in all such
valuation an element of weakness, since it is not the valuation of
eternal justice. What is the use of your finding by experiment in some
people a thing we know by reason must be in all of them?"

Here it will be as well to pause a moment and avert one possible
misunderstanding. I do not mean that you and I cannot and do not
practically see and personally remark on this or that eccentric or
intermediate type, for which the word "feeble-minded" might be a very
convenient word, and might correspond to a genuine though indefinable
fact of experience. In the same way we might speak, and do speak, of
such and such a person being "mad with vanity" without wanting two
keepers to walk in and take the person off. But I ask the reader to
remember always that I am talking of words, not as they are used in
talk or novels, but as they will be used, and have been used, in
warrants and certificates, and Acts of Parliament. The distinction
between the two is perfectly clear and practical. The difference is
that a novelist or a talker can be trusted to try and hit the mark; it
is all to his glory that the cap should fit, that the type should be
recognised; that he should, in a literary sense, hang the right man.
But it is by no means always to the interests of governments or
officials to hang the right man. The fact that they often do stretch
words in order to cover cases is the whole foundation of having any
fixed laws or free institutions at all. My point is not that I have
never met anyone whom I should call feeble-minded, rather than mad or
imbecile. My point is that if I want to dispossess a nephew, oust a
rival, silence a blackmailer, or get rid of an importunate widow,
there is nothing in logic to prevent my calling them feeble-minded
too. And the vaguer the charge is the less they will be able to
disprove it.

One does not, as I have said, need to deny heredity in order to resist
such legislation, any more than one needs to deny the spiritual world
in order to resist an epidemic of witch-burning. I admit there may be
such a thing as hereditary feeble-mindedness; I believe there is such
a thing as witchcraft. Believing that there are spirits, I am bound in
mere reason to suppose that there are probably evil spirits;
believing that there are evil spirits, I am bound in mere reason to
suppose that some men grow evil by dealing with them. All that is mere
rationalism; the superstition (that is the unreasoning repugnance and
terror) is in the person who admits there can be angels but denies
there can be devils. The superstition is in the person who admits
there can be devils but denies there can be diabolists. Yet I should
certainly resist any effort to search for witches, for a perfectly
simple reason, which is the key of the whole of this controversy. The
reason is that it is one thing to believe in witches, and quite
another to believe in witch-smellers. I have more respect for the old
witch-finders than for the Eugenists, who go about persecuting the
fool of the family; because the witch-finders, according to their own
conviction, ran a risk. Witches were not the feeble-minded, but the
strong-minded--the evil mesmerists, the rulers of the elements. Many a
raid on a witch, right or wrong, seemed to the villagers who did it a
righteous popular rising against a vast spiritual tyranny, a papacy of
sin. Yet we know that the thing degenerated into a rabid and
despicable persecution of the feeble or the old. It ended by being a
war upon the weak. It ended by being what Eugenics begins by being.

When I said above that I believed in witches, but not in
witch-smellers, I stated my full position about that conception of
heredity, that half-formed philosophy of fears and omens; of curses
and weird recurrence and darkness and the doom of blood, which, as
preached to humanity to-day, is often more inhuman than witchcraft
itself. I do not deny that this dark element exists; I only affirm
that it is dark; or, in other words, that its most strenuous students
are evidently in the dark about it. I would no more trust Dr. Karl
Pearson on a heredity-hunt than on a heresy-hunt. I am perfectly ready
to give my reasons for thinking this; and I believe any well-balanced
person, if he reflects on them, will think as I do. There are two
senses in which a man may be said to know or not know a subject. I
know the subject of arithmetic, for instance; that is, I am not good
at it, but I know what it is. I am sufficiently familiar with its use
to see the absurdity of anyone who says, "So vulgar a fraction cannot
be mentioned before ladies," or "This unit is Unionist, I hope."
Considering myself for one moment as an arithmetician, I may say that
I know next to nothing about my subject: but I know my subject. I know
it in the street. There is the other kind of man, like Dr. Karl
Pearson, who undoubtedly knows a vast amount about his subject; who
undoubtedly lives in great forests of facts concerning kinship and
inheritance. But it is not, by any means, the same thing to have
searched the forests and to have recognised the frontiers. Indeed, the
two things generally belong to two very different types of mind. I
gravely doubt whether the Astronomer-Royal would write the best essay
on the relations between astronomy and astrology. I doubt whether the
President of the Geographical Society could give the best definition
and history of the words "geography" and "geology."

Now the students of heredity, especially, understand all of their
subject except their subject. They were, I suppose, bred and born in
that brier-patch, and have really explored it without coming to the
end of it. That is, they have studied everything but the question of
what they are studying. Now I do not propose to rely merely on myself
to tell them what they are studying. I propose, as will be seen in a
moment, to call the testimony of a great man who has himself studied
it. But to begin with, the domain of heredity (for those who see its
frontiers) is a sort of triangle, enclosed on its three sides by three
facts. The first is that heredity undoubtedly exists, or there would
be no such thing as a family likeness, and every marriage might
suddenly produce a small negro. The second is that even simple
heredity can never be simple; its complexity must be literally
unfathomable, for in that field fight unthinkable millions. But yet
again it never is simple heredity: for the instant anyone is, he
experiences. The third is that these innumerable ancient influences,
these instant inundations of experiences, come together according to a
combination that is unlike anything else on this earth. It is a
combination that does combine. It cannot be sorted out again, even on
the Day of Judgment. Two totally different people have become in the
sense most sacred, frightful, and unanswerable, one flesh. If a
golden-haired Scandinavian girl has married a very swarthy Jew, the
Scandinavian side of the family may say till they are blue in the face
that the baby has his mother's nose or his mother's eyes. They can
never be certain the black-haired Bedouin is not present in every
feature, in every inch. In the person of the baby he may have gently
pulled his wife's nose. In the person of the baby he may have partly
blacked his wife's eyes.

Those are the three first facts of heredity. That it exists; that it
is subtle and made of a million elements; that it is simple, and
cannot be unmade into those elements. To summarise: you know there is
wine in the soup. You do not know how many wines there are in the
soup, because you do not know how many wines there are in the world.
And you never will know, because all chemists, all cooks, and all
common-sense people tell you that the soup is of such a sort that it
can never be chemically analysed. That is a perfectly fair parallel to
the hereditary element in the human soul. There are many ways in which
one can feel that there is wine in the soup, as in suddenly tasting a
wine specially favoured; that corresponds to seeing suddenly flash on
a young face the image of some ancestor you have known. But even then
the taster cannot be certain he is not tasting one familiar wine among
many unfamiliar ones--or seeing one known ancestor among a million
unknown ancestors. Another way is to get drunk on the soup, which
corresponds to the case of those who say they are driven to sin and
death by hereditary doom. But even then the drunkard cannot be certain
it was the soup, any more than the traditional drunkard who is certain
it was the salmon.

Those are the facts about heredity which anyone can see. The upshot of
them is not only that a miss is as good as a mile, but a miss is as
good as a win. If the child has his parents' nose (or noses) that may
be heredity. But if he has not, that may be heredity too. And as we
need not take heredity lightly because two generations differ--so we
need not take heredity a scrap more seriously because two generations
are similar. The thing is there, in what cases we know not, in what
proportion we know not, and we cannot know.

Now it is just here that the decent difference of function between Dr.
Saleeby's trade and mine comes in. It is his business to study human
health and sickness as a whole, in a spirit of more or less
enlightened guesswork; and it is perfectly natural that he should
allow for heredity here, there, and everywhere, as a man climbing a
mountain or sailing a boat will allow for weather without even
explaining it to himself. An utterly different attitude is incumbent
on any conscientious man writing about what laws should be enforced or
about how commonwealths should be governed. And when we consider how
plain a fact is murder, and yet how hesitant and even hazy we all grow
about the guilt of a murderer, when we consider how simple an act is
stealing, and yet how hard it is to convict and punish those rich
commercial pirates who steal the most, when we consider how cruel and
clumsy the law can be even about things as old and plain as the Ten
Commandments--I simply cannot conceive any responsible person
proposing to legislate on our broken knowledge and bottomless
ignorance of heredity.

But though I have to consider this dull matter in its due logical
order, it appears to me that this part of the matter has been settled,
and settled in a most masterly way, by somebody who has infinitely
more right to speak on it than I have. Our press seems to have a
perfect genius for fitting people with caps that don't fit; and
affixing the wrong terms of eulogy and even the wrong terms of abuse.
And just as people will talk of Bernard Shaw as a naughty winking
Pierrot, when he is the last great Puritan and really believes in
respectability; just as (_si parva licet_ etc.) they will talk of my
own paradoxes, when I pass my life in preaching that the truisms are
true; so an enormous number of newspaper readers seem to have it fixed
firmly in their heads that Mr. H.G. Wells is a harsh and horrible
Eugenist in great goblin spectacles, who wants to put us all into
metallic microscopes and dissect us with metallic tools. As a matter
of fact, of course, Mr. Wells, so far from being too definite, is
generally not definite enough. He is an absolute wizard in the
appreciation of atmospheres and the opening of vistas; but his answers
are more agnostic than his questions. His books will do everything
except shut. And so far from being the sort of man who would stop a
man from propagating, he cannot even stop a full stop. He is not
Eugenic enough to prevent the black dot at the end of a sentence from
breeding a line of little dots.

But this is not the clear-cut blunder of which I spoke. The real
blunder is this. Mr. Wells deserves a tiara of crowns and a garland of
medals for all kinds of reasons. But if I were restricted, on grounds
of public economy, to giving Mr. Wells only one medal _ob cives
servatos_, I would give him a medal as the Eugenist who destroyed
Eugenics. For everyone spoke of him, rightly or wrongly, as a
Eugenist; and he certainly had, as I have not, the training and type
of culture required to consider the matter merely in a biological and
not in a generally moral sense. The result was that in that fine book,
"Mankind in the Making," where he inevitably came to grips with the
problem, he threw down to the Eugenists an intellectual challenge
which seems to me unanswerable, but which, at any rate, is unanswered.
I do not mean that no remote Eugenist wrote upon the subject; for it
is impossible to read all writings, especially Eugenist writings. I do
mean that the leading Eugenists write as if this challenge had never
been offered. The gauntlet lies unlifted on the ground.

Having given honour for the idea where it is due, I may be permitted
to summarise it myself for the sake of brevity. Mr. Wells' point was
this. That we cannot be certain about the inheritance of health,
because health is not a quality. It is not a thing like darkness in
the hair or length in the limbs. It is a relation, a balance. You have
a tall, strong man; but his very strength depends on his not being too
tall for his strength. You catch a healthy, full-blooded fellow; but
his very health depends on his being not too full of blood. A heart
that is strong for a dwarf will be weak for a giant; a nervous system
that would kill a man with a trace of a certain illness will sustain
him to ninety if he has no trace of that illness. Nay, the same
nervous system might kill him if he had an excess of some other
comparatively healthy thing. Seeing, therefore, that there are
apparently healthy people of all types, it is obvious that if you mate
two of them, you may even then produce a discord out of two
inconsistent harmonies. It is obvious that you can no more be certain
of a good offspring than you can be certain of a good tune if you play
two fine airs at once on the same piano. You can be even less certain
of it in the more delicate case of beauty, of which the Eugenists talk
a great deal. Marry two handsome people whose noses tend to the
aquiline, and their baby (for all you know) may be a goblin with a
nose like an enormous parrot's. Indeed, I actually know a case of this
kind. The Eugenist has to settle, not the result of fixing one steady
thing to a second steady thing; but what will happen when one toppling
and dizzy equilibrium crashes into another.

This is the interesting conclusion. It is on this degree of knowledge
that we are asked to abandon the universal morality of mankind. When
we have stopped the lover from marrying the unfortunate woman he
loves, when we have found him another uproariously healthy female whom
he does not love in the least, even then we have no logical evidence
that the result may not be as horrid and dangerous as if he had
behaved like a man of honour.



Let us now finally consider what the honest Eugenists do mean, since
it has become increasingly evident that they cannot mean what they
say. Unfortunately, the obstacles to any explanation of this are such
as to insist on a circuitous approach. The tendency of all that is
printed and much that is spoken to-day is to be, in the only true
sense, behind the times. It is because it is always in a hurry that it
is always too late. Give an ordinary man a day to write an article,
and he will remember the things he has really heard latest; and may
even, in the last glory of the sunset, begin to think of what he
thinks himself. Give him an hour to write it, and he will think of the
nearest text-book on the topic, and make the best mosaic he may out of
classical quotations and old authorities. Give him ten minutes to
write it and he will run screaming for refuge to the old nursery where
he learnt his stalest proverbs, or the old school where he learnt his
stalest politics. The quicker goes the journalist the slower go his
thoughts. The result is the newspaper of our time, which every day can
be delivered earlier and earlier, and which, every day, is less worth
delivering at all. The poor panting critic falls farther and farther
behind the motor-car of modern fact. Fifty years ago he was barely
fifteen years behind the times. Fifteen years ago he was not more than
fifty years behind the times. Just now he is rather more than a
hundred years behind the times: and the proof of it is that the things
he says, though manifest nonsense about our society to-day, really
were true about our society some hundred and thirty years ago. The
best instance of his belated state is his perpetual assertion that the
supernatural is less and less believed. It is a perfectly true and
realistic account--of the eighteenth century. It is the worst possible
account of this age of psychics and spirit-healers and fakirs and
fashionable fortune-tellers. In fact, I generally reply in eighteenth
century language to this eighteenth century illusion. If somebody says
to me, "The creeds are crumbling," I reply, "And the King of Prussia,
who is himself a Freethinker, is certainly capturing Silesia from the
Catholic Empress." If somebody says, "Miracles must be reconsidered in
the light of rational experience," I answer affably, "But I hope that
our enlightened leader, Hébert, will not insist on guillotining that
poor French queen." If somebody says, "We must watch for the rise of
some new religion which can commend itself to reason," I reply, "But
how much more necessary is it to watch for the rise of some military
adventurer who may destroy the Republic: and, to my mind, that young
Major Bonaparte has rather a restless air." It is only in such
language from the Age of Reason that we can answer such things. The
age we live in is something more than an age of superstition--it is an
age of innumerable superstitions. But it is only with one example of
this that I am concerned here.

I mean the error that still sends men marching about disestablishing
churches and talking of the tyranny of compulsory church teaching or
compulsory church tithes. I do not wish for an irrelevant
misunderstanding here; I would myself certainly disestablish any
church that had a numerical minority, like the Irish or the Welsh; and
I think it would do a great deal of good to genuine churches that have
a partly conventional majority, like the English, or even the Russian.
But I should only do this if I had nothing else to do; and just now
there is very much else to do. For religion, orthodox or unorthodox,
is not just now relying on the weapon of State establishment at all.
The Pope practically made no attempt to preserve the Concordat; but
seemed rather relieved at the independence his Church gained by the
destruction of it: and it is common talk among the French clericalists
that the Church has gained by the change. In Russia the one real
charge brought by religious people (especially Roman Catholics)
against the Orthodox Church is not its orthodoxy or heterodoxy, but
its abject dependence on the State. In England we can almost measure
an Anglican's fervour for his Church by his comparative coolness about
its establishment--that is, its control by a Parliament of Scotch
Presbyterians like Balfour, or Welsh Congregationalists like Lloyd
George. In Scotland the powerful combination of the two great sects
outside the establishment have left it in a position in which it feels
no disposition to boast of being called by mere lawyers the Church of
Scotland. I am not here arguing that Churches should not depend on the
State; nor that they do not depend upon much worse things. It may be
reasonably maintained that the strength of Romanism, though it be not
in any national police, is in a moral police more rigid and vigilant.
It may be reasonably maintained that the strength of Anglicanism,
though it be not in establishment, is in aristocracy, and its shadow,
which is called snobbishness. All I assert here is that the Churches
are not now leaning heavily on their political establishment; they are
not using heavily the secular arm. Almost everywhere their legal
tithes have been modified, their legal boards of control have been
mixed. They may still employ tyranny, and worse tyranny: I am not
considering that. They are not specially using that special tyranny
which consists in using the government.

The thing that really is trying to tyrannise through government is
Science. The thing that really does use the secular arm is Science.
And the creed that really is levying tithes and capturing schools, the
creed that really is enforced by fine and imprisonment, the creed that
really is proclaimed not in sermons but in statutes, and spread not by
pilgrims but by policemen--that creed is the great but disputed
system of thought which began with Evolution and has ended in
Eugenics. Materialism is really our established Church; for the
Government will really help it to persecute its heretics. Vaccination,
in its hundred years of experiment, has been disputed almost as much
as baptism in its approximate two thousand. But it seems quite natural
to our politicians to enforce vaccination; and it would seem to them
madness to enforce baptism.

I am not frightened of the word "persecution" when it is attributed to
the churches; nor is it in the least as a term of reproach that I
attribute it to the men of science. It is as a term of legal fact. If
it means the imposition by the police of a widely disputed theory,
incapable of final proof--then our priests are not now persecuting,
but our doctors are. The imposition of such dogmas constitutes a State
Church--in an older and stronger sense than any that can be applied to
any supernatural Church to-day. There are still places where the
religious minority is forbidden to assemble or to teach in this way or
that; and yet more where it is excluded from this or that public post.
But I cannot now recall any place where it is compelled by the
criminal law to go through the rite of the official religion. Even the
Young Turks did not insist on all Macedonians being circumcised.

Now here we find ourselves confronted with an amazing fact. When, in
the past, opinions so arguable have been enforced by State violence,
it has been at the instigation of fanatics who held them for fixed
and flaming certainties. If truths could not be evaded by their
enemies, neither could they be altered even by their friends. But what
are the certain truths that the secular arm must now lift the sword to
enforce? Why, they are that very mass of bottomless questions and
bewildered answers that we have been studying in the last
chapters--questions whose only interest is that they are trackless and
mysterious; answers whose only glory is that they are tentative and
new. The devotee boasted that he would never abandon the faith; and
therefore he persecuted for the faith. But the doctor of science
actually boasts that he will always abandon a hypothesis; and yet he
persecutes for the hypothesis. The Inquisitor violently enforced his
creed, because it was unchangeable. The _savant_ enforces it violently
because he may change it the next day.

Now this is a new sort of persecution; and one may be permitted to ask
if it is an improvement on the old. The difference, so far as one can
see at first, seems rather favourable to the old. If we are to be at
the merciless mercy of man, most of us would rather be racked for a
creed that existed intensely in somebody's head, rather than
vivisected for a discovery that had not yet come into anyone's head,
and possibly never would. A man would rather be tortured with a
thumbscrew until he chose to see reason than tortured with a
vivisecting knife until the vivisector chose to see reason. Yet that
is the real difference between the two types of legal enforcement. If
I gave in to the Inquisitors, I should at least know what creed to
profess. But even if I yelled out _a credo_ when the Eugenists had me
on the rack, I should not know what creed to yell. I might get an
extra turn of the rack for confessing to the creed they confessed
quite a week ago.

Now let no light-minded person say that I am here taking extravagant
parallels; for the parallel is not only perfect, but plain. For this
reason: that the difference between torture and vivisection is not in
any way affected by the fierceness or mildness of either. Whether they
gave the rack half a turn or half a hundred, they were, by hypothesis,
dealing with a truth which they knew to be there. Whether they
vivisect painfully or painlessly, they are trying to find out whether
the truth is there or not. The old Inquisitors tortured to put their
own opinions into somebody. But the new Inquisitors torture to get
their own opinions out of him. They do not know what their own
opinions are, until the victim of vivisection tells them. The division
of thought is a complete chasm for anyone who cares about thinking.
The old persecutor was trying to _teach_ the citizen, with fire and
sword. The new persecutor is trying to _learn_ from the citizen, with
scalpel and germ-injector. The master was meeker than the pupil will

I could prove by many practical instances that even my illustrations
are not exaggerated, by many placid proposals I have heard for the
vivisection of criminals, or by the filthy incident of Dr. Neisser.
But I prefer here to stick to a strictly logical line of distinction,
and insist that whereas in all previous persecutions the violence was
used to end _our_ indecision, the whole point here is that the
violence is used to end the indecision of the persecutors. This is
what the honest Eugenists really mean, so far as they mean anything.
They mean that the public is to be given up, not as a heathen land for
conversion, but simply as a _pabulum_ for experiment. That is the
real, rude, barbaric sense behind this Eugenic legislation. The
Eugenist doctors are not such fools as they look in the light of any
logical inquiry about what they want. They do not know what they want,
except that they want your soul and body and mine in order to find
out. They are quite seriously, as they themselves might say, the first
religion to be experimental instead of doctrinal. All other
established Churches have been based on somebody having found the
truth. This is the first Church that was ever based on not having
found it.

There is in them a perfectly sincere hope and enthusiasm; but it is
not for us, but for what they might learn from us, if they could rule
us as they can rabbits. They cannot tell us anything about heredity,
because they do not know anything about it. But they do quite honestly
believe that they would know something about it, when they had married
and mismarried us for a few hundred years. They cannot tell us who is
fit to wield such authority, for they know that nobody is; but they do
quite honestly believe that when that authority has been abused for a
very long time, somebody somehow will be evolved who is fit for the
job. I am no Puritan, and no one who knows my opinions will consider
it a mere criminal charge if I say that they are simply gambling. The
reckless gambler has no money in his pockets; he has only the ideas in
his head. These gamblers have no ideas in their heads; they have only
the money in their pockets. But they think that if they could use the
money to buy a big society to experiment on, something like an idea
might come to them at last. That is Eugenics.

I confine myself here to remarking that I do not like it. I may be
very stingy, but I am willing to pay the scientist for what he does
know; I draw the line at paying him for everything he doesn't know. I
may be very cowardly, but I am willing to be hurt for what I think or
what he thinks--I am not willing to be hurt, or even inconvenienced,
for whatever he might happen to think after he had hurt me. The
ordinary citizen may easily be more magnanimous than I, and take the
whole thing on trust; in which case his career may be happier in the
next world, but (I think) sadder in this. At least, I wish to point
out to him that he will not be giving his glorious body as soldiers
give it, to the glory of a fixed flag, or martyrs to the glory of a
deathless God. He will be, in the strict sense of the Latin phrase,
giving his vile body for an experiment--an experiment of which even
the experimentalist knows neither the significance nor the end.



I have up to this point treated the Eugenists, I hope, as seriously as
they treat themselves. I have attempted an analysis of their theory as
if it were an utterly abstract and disinterested theory; and so
considered, there seems to be very little left of it. But before I go
on, in the second part of this book, to talk of the ugly things that
really are left, I wish to recapitulate the essential points in their
essential order, lest any personal irrelevance or over-emphasis (to
which I know myself to be prone) should have confused the course of
what I believe to be a perfectly fair and consistent argument. To make
it yet clearer, I will summarise the thing under chapters, and in
quite short paragraphs.

In the first chapter I attempted to define the essential point in
which Eugenics can claim, and does claim, to be a new morality. That
point is that it is possible to consider the baby in considering the
bride. I do not adopt the ideal irresponsibility of the man who said,
"What has posterity done for us?" But I do say, to start with, "What
can we do for posterity, except deal fairly with our contemporaries?"
Unless a man love his wife whom he has seen, how shall he love his
child whom he has not seen?

In the second chapter I point out that this division in the conscience
cannot be met by mere mental confusions, which would make any woman
refusing any man a Eugenist. There will always be something in the
world which tends to keep outrageous unions exceptional; that
influence is not Eugenics, but laughter.

In the third chapter I seek to describe the quite extraordinary
atmosphere in which such things have become possible. I call that
atmosphere anarchy; but insist that it is an anarchy in the centres
where there should be authority. Government has become ungovernable;
that is, it cannot leave off governing. Law has become lawless; that
is, it cannot see where laws should stop. The chief feature of our
time is the meekness of the mob and the madness of the government. In
this atmosphere it is natural enough that medical experts, being
authorities, should go mad, and attempt so crude and random and
immature a dream as this of petting and patting (and rather spoiling)
the babe unborn.

In chapter four I point out how this impatience has burst through the
narrow channel of the Lunacy Laws, and has obliterated them by
extending them. The whole point of the madman is that he is the
exception that proves the rule. But Eugenics seeks to treat the whole
rule as a series of exceptions--to make all men mad. And on that
ground there is hope for nobody; for all opinions have an author, and
all authors have a heredity. The mentality of the Eugenist makes him
believe in Eugenics as much as the mentality of the reckless lover
makes him violate Eugenics; and both mentalities are, on the
materialist hypothesis, equally the irresponsible product of more or
less unknown physical causes. The real security of man against any
logical Eugenics is like the false security of Macbeth. The only
Eugenist that could rationally attack him must be a man of no woman

In the chapter following this, which is called "The Flying Authority,"
I try in vain to locate and fix any authority that could rationally
rule men in so rooted and universal a matter; little would be gained
by ordinary men doing it to each other; and if ordinary practitioners
did it they would very soon show, by a thousand whims and quarrels,
that they were ordinary men. I then discussed the enlightened
despotism of a few general professors of hygiene, and found it
unworkable, for an essential reason: that while we can always get men
intelligent enough to know more than the rest of us about this or that
accident or pain or pest, we cannot count on the appearance of great
cosmic philosophers; and only such men can be even supposed to know
more than we do about normal conduct and common sanity. Every sort of
man, in short, would shirk such a responsibility, except the worst
sort of man, who would accept it.

I pass on, in the next chapter, to consider whether we know enough
about heredity to act decisively, even if we were certain who ought to
act. Here I refer the Eugenists to the reply of Mr. Wells, which they
have never dealt with to my knowledge or satisfaction--the important
and primary objection that health is not a quality but a proportion of
qualities; so that even health married to health might produce the
exaggeration called disease. It should be noted here, of course, that
an individual biologist may quite honestly believe that he has found a
fixed principle with the help of Weissmann or Mendel. But we are not
discussing whether he knows enough to be justified in thinking (as is
somewhat the habit of the anthropoid _Homo_) that he is right. We are
discussing whether _we_ know enough, as responsible citizens, to put
such powers into the hands of men who may be deceived or who may be
deceivers. I conclude that we do not.

In the last chapter of the first half of the book I give what is, I
believe, the real secret of this confusion, the secret of what the
Eugenists really want. They want to be allowed to find out what they
want. Not content with the endowment of research, they desire the
establishment of research; that is the making of it a thing official
and compulsory, like education or state insurance; but still it is
only research and not discovery. In short, they want a new kind of
State Church, which shall be an Established Church of Doubt--instead
of Faith. They have no Science of Eugenics at all, but they do really
mean that if we will give ourselves up to be vivisected they may very
probably have one some day. I point out, in more dignified diction,
that this is a bit thick.

And now, in the second half of this book, we will proceed to the
consideration of things that really exist. It is, I deeply regret to
say, necessary to return to realities, as they are in your daily life
and mine. Our happy holiday in the land of nonsense is over; we shall
see no more its beautiful city, with the almost Biblical name of Bosh,
nor the forests full of mares' nests, nor the fields of tares that are
ripened only by moonshine. We shall meet no longer those delicious
monsters that might have talked in the same wild club with the Snark
and the Jabberwock or the Pobble or the Dong with the Luminous Nose;
the father who can't make head or tail of the mother, but thoroughly
understands the child she will some day bear; the lawyer who has to
run after his own laws almost as fast as the criminals run away from
them; the two mad doctors who might discuss for a million years which
of them has the right to lock up the other; the grammarian who clings
convulsively to the Passive Mood, and says it is the duty of something
to get itself done without any human assistance; the man who would
marry giants to giants until the back breaks, as children pile brick
upon brick for the pleasure of seeing the staggering tower tumble
down; and, above all, the superb man of science who wants you to pay
him and crown him because he has so far found out nothing. These
fairy-tale comrades must leave us. They exist, but they have no
influence in what is really going on. They are honest dupes and tools,
as you and I were very nearly being honest dupes and tools. If we
come to think coolly of the world we live in, if we consider how very
practical is the practical politician, at least where cash is
concerned, how very dull and earthy are most of the men who own the
millions and manage the newspaper trusts, how very cautious and averse
from idealist upheaval are those that control this capitalist
society--when we consider all this, it is frankly incredible that
Eugenics should be a front bench fashionable topic and almost an Act
of Parliament, if it were in practice only the unfinished fantasy
which it is, as I have shown, in pure reason. Even if it were a just
revolution, it would be much too revolutionary a revolution for modern
statesmen, if there were not something else behind. Even if it were a
true ideal, it would be much too idealistic an ideal for our
"practical men," if there were not something real as well. Well, there
is something real as well. There is no reason in Eugenics, but there
is plenty of motive. Its supporters are highly vague about its theory,
but they will be painfully practical about its practice. And while I
reiterate that many of its more eloquent agents are probably quite
innocent instruments, there _are_ some, even among Eugenists, who by
this time know what they are doing. To them we shall not say, "What is
Eugenics?" or "Where on earth are you going?" but only "Woe unto you,
hypocrites, that devour widows' houses and for a pretence use long

Part II




The root formula of an epoch is always an unwritten law, just as the
law that is the first of all laws, that which protects life from the
murderer, is written nowhere in the Statute Book. Nevertheless there
is all the difference between having and not having a notion of this
basic assumption in an epoch. For instance, the Middle Ages will
simply puzzle us with their charities and cruelties, their asceticism
and bright colours, unless we catch their general eagerness for
building and planning, dividing this from that by walls and
fences--the spirit that made architecture their most successful art.
Thus even a slave seemed sacred; the divinity that did hedge a king,
did also, in one sense, hedge a serf, for he could not be driven out
from behind his hedges. Thus even liberty became a positive thing like
a privilege; and even, when most men had it, it was not opened like
the freedom of a wilderness, but bestowed, like the freedom of a city.
Or again, the seventeenth century may seem a chaos of contradictions,
with its almost priggish praise of parliaments and its quite barbaric
massacre of prisoners, until we realise that, if the Middle Ages was a
house half built, the seventeenth century was a house on fire. Panic
was the note of it, and that fierce fastidiousness and exclusiveness
that comes from fear. Calvinism was its characteristic religion, even
in the Catholic Church, the insistence on the narrowness of the way
and the fewness of the chosen. Suspicion was the note of its
politics--"put not your trust in princes." It tried to thrash
everything out by learned, virulent, and ceaseless controversy; and it
weeded its population by witch-burning. Or yet again: the eighteenth
century will present pictures that seem utterly opposite, and yet seem
singularly typical of the time: the sack of Versailles and the "Vicar
of Wakefield"; the pastorals of Watteau and the dynamite speeches of
Danton. But we shall understand them all better if we once catch sight
of the idea of _tidying up_ which ran through the whole period, the
quietest people being prouder of their tidiness, civilisation, and
sound taste than of any of their virtues; and the wildest people
having (and this is the most important point) no love of wildness for
its own sake, like Nietzsche or the anarchic poets, but only a
readiness to employ it to get rid of unreason or disorder. With these
epochs it is not altogether impossible to say that some such form of
words is a key. The epoch for which it is almost impossible to find a
form of words is our own.

Nevertheless, I think that with us the keyword is "inevitability," or,
as I should be inclined to call it, "impenitence." We are
subconsciously dominated in all departments by the notion that there
is no turning back, and it is rooted in materialism and the denial of
free-will. Take any handful of modern facts and compare them with the
corresponding facts a few hundred years ago. Compare the modern Party
System with the political factions of the seventeenth century. The
difference is that in the older time the party leaders not only really
cut off each other's heads, but (what is much more alarming) really
repealed each other's laws. With us it has become traditional for one
party to inherit and leave untouched the acts of the other when made,
however bitterly they were attacked in the making. James II. and his
nephew William were neither of them very gay specimens; but they would
both have laughed at the idea of "a continuous foreign policy." The
Tories were not Conservatives; they were, in the literal sense,
reactionaries. They did not merely want to keep the Stuarts; they
wanted to bring them back.

Or again, consider how obstinately the English mediæval monarchy
returned again and again to its vision of French possessions, trying
to reverse the decision of fate; how Edward III. returned to the
charge after the defeats of John and Henry III., and Henry V. after
the failure of Edward III.; and how even Mary had that written on her
heart which was neither her husband nor her religion. And then
consider this: that we have comparatively lately known a universal
orgy of the thing called Imperialism, the unity of the Empire the only
topic, colonies counted like crown jewels, and the Union Jack waved
across the world. And yet no one so much as dreamed, I will not say of
recovering, the American colonies for the Imperial unity (which would
have been too dangerous a task for modern empire-builders), but even
of re-telling the story from an Imperial standpoint. Henry V.
justified the claims of Edward III. Joseph Chamberlain would not have
dreamed of justifying the claims of George III. Nay, Shakespeare
justifies the French War, and sticks to Talbot and defies the legend
of Joan of Arc. Mr. Kipling would not dare to justify the American
War, stick to Burgoyne, and defy the legend of Washington. Yet there
really was much more to be said for George III. than there ever was
for Henry V. It was not said, much less acted upon, by the modern
Imperialists; because of this basic modern sense, that as the future
is inevitable, so is the past irrevocable. Any fact so complete as the
American exodus from the Empire must be considered as final for æons,
though it hardly happened more than a hundred years ago. Merely
because it has managed to occur it must be called first, a necessary
evil, and then an indispensable good. I need not add that I do not
want to reconquer America; but then I am not an Imperialist.

Then there is another way of testing it: ask yourself how many people
you have met who grumbled at a thing as incurable, and how many who
attacked it as curable? How many people we have heard abuse the
British elementary schools, as they would abuse the British climate?
How few have we met who realised that British education can be
altered, but British weather cannot? How few there were that knew that
the clouds were more immortal and more solid than the schools? For a
thousand that regret compulsory education, where is the hundred, or
the ten, or the one, who would repeal compulsory education? Indeed,
the very word proves my case by its unpromising and unfamiliar sound.
At the beginning of our epoch men talked with equal ease about Reform
and Repeal. Now everybody talks about reform; but nobody talks about
repeal. Our fathers did not talk of Free Trade, but of the Repeal of
the Corn Laws. They did not talk of Home Rule, but of the Repeal of
the Union. In those days people talked of a "Repealer" as the most
practical of all politicians, the kind of politician that carries a
club. Now the Repealer is flung far into the province of an impossible
idealism: and the leader of one of our great parties, having said, in
a heat of temporary sincerity, that he would repeal an Act, actually
had to write to all the papers to assure them that he would only amend
it. I need not multiply instances, though they might be multiplied
almost to a million. The note of the age is to suggest that the past
may just as well be praised, since it cannot be mended. Men actually
in that past have toiled like ants and died like locusts to undo some
previous settlement that seemed secure; but we cannot do so much as
repeal an Act of Parliament. We entertain the weak-minded notion that
what is done can't be undone. Our view was well summarised in a
typical Victorian song with the refrain: "The mill will never grind
again the water that is past." There are many answers to this. One
(which would involve a disquisition on the phenomena of Evaporation
and Dew) we will here avoid. Another is, that to the minds of simple
country folk, the object of a mill is not to grind water, but to grind
corn, and that (strange as it may seem) there really have been
societies sufficiently vigilant and valiant to prevent their corn
perpetually flowing away from them, to the tune of a sentimental song.

Now this modern refusal to undo what has been done is not only an
intellectual fault; it is a moral fault also. It is not merely our
mental inability to understand the mistake we have made. It is also
our spiritual refusal to admit that we have made a mistake. It was
mere vanity in Mr. Brummell when he sent away trays full of
imperfectly knotted neck-cloths, lightly remarking, "These are our
failures." It is a good instance of the nearness of vanity to
humility, for at least he had to admit that they were failures. But it
would have been spiritual pride in Mr. Brummell if he had tied on all
the cravats, one on top of the other, lest his valet should discover
that he had ever tied one badly. For in spiritual pride there is
always an element of secrecy and solitude. Mr. Brummell would be
satanic; also (which I fear would affect him more) he would be badly
dressed. But he would be a perfect presentation of the modern
publicist, who cannot do anything right, because he must not admit
that he ever did anything wrong.

This strange, weak obstinacy, this persistence in the wrong path of
progress, grows weaker and worse, as do all such weak things. And by
the time in which I write its moral attitude has taken on something of
the sinister and even the horrible. Our mistakes have become our
secrets. Editors and journalists tear up with a guilty air all that
reminds them of the party promises unfulfilled, or the party ideals
reproaching them. It is true of our statesmen (much more than of our
bishops, of whom Mr. Wells said it), that socially in evidence they
are intellectually in hiding. The society is heavy with unconfessed
sins; its mind is sore and silent with painful subjects; it has a
constipation of conscience. There are many things it has done and
allowed to be done which it does not really dare to think about; it
calls them by other names and tries to talk itself into faith in a
false past, as men make up the things they would have said in a
quarrel. Of these sins one lies buried deepest but most noisome, and
though it is stifled, stinks: the true story of the relations of the
rich man and the poor in England. The half-starved English proletarian
is not only nearly a skeleton but he is a skeleton in a cupboard.

It may be said, in some surprise, that surely we hear to-day on every
side the same story of the destitute proletariat and the social
problem, of the sweating in the unskilled trades or the overcrowding
in the slums. It is granted; but I said the true story. Untrue
stories there are in plenty, on all sides of the discussion. There is
the interesting story of the Class Conscious Proletarian of All Lands,
the chap who has "solidarity," and is always just going to abolish
war. The Marxian Socialists will tell you all about him; only he isn't
there. A common English workman is just as incapable of thinking of a
German as anything but a German as he is of thinking of himself as
anything but an Englishman. Then there is the opposite story; the
story of the horrid man who is an atheist and wants to destroy the
home, but who, for some private reason, prefers to call this
Socialism. He isn't there either. The prosperous Socialists have homes
exactly like yours and mine; and the poor Socialists are not allowed
by the Individualists to have any at all. There is the story of the
Two Workmen, which is a very nice and exciting story, about how one
passed all the public houses in Cheapside and was made Lord Mayor on
arriving at the Guildhall, while the other went into all the public
houses and emerged quite ineligible for such a dignity. Alas! for this
also is vanity. A thief might become Lord Mayor, but an honest workman
certainly couldn't. Then there is the story of "The Relentless Doom,"
by which rich men were, by economic laws, forced to go on taking away
money from poor men, although they simply longed to leave off: this is
an unendurable thought to a free and Christian man, and the reader
will be relieved to hear that it never happened. The rich could have
left off stealing whenever they wanted to leave off, only this never
happened either. Then there is the story of the cunning Fabian who sat
on six committees at once and so coaxed the rich man to become quite
poor. By simply repeating, in a whisper, that there are "wheels within
wheels," this talented man managed to take away the millionaire's
motor car, one wheel at a time, till the millionaire had quite
forgotten that he ever had one. It was very clever of him to do this,
only he has not done it. There is not a screw loose in the
millionaire's motor, which is capable of running over the Fabian and
leaving him a flat corpse in the road at a moment's notice. All these
stories are very fascinating stories to be told by the Individualist
and Socialist in turn to the great Sultan of Capitalism, because if
they left off amusing him for an instant he would cut off their heads.
But if they once began to tell the true story of the Sultan to the
Sultan, he would boil them in oil; and this they wish to avoid.

The true story of the sin of the Sultan he is always trying, by
listening to these stories, to forget. As we have said before in this
chapter, he would prefer not to remember, because he has made up his
mind not to repent. It is a curious story, and I shall try to tell it
truly in the two chapters that follow. In all ages the tyrant is hard
because he is soft. If his car crashes over bleeding and accusing
crowds, it is because he has chosen the path of least resistance. It
is because it is much easier to ride down a human race than ride up a
moderately steep hill. The fight of the oppressor is always a
pillow-fight; commonly a war with cushions--always a war for cushions.
Saladin, the great Sultan, if I remember rightly, accounted it the
greatest feat of swordsmanship to cut a cushion. And so indeed it is,
as all of us can attest who have been for years past trying to cut
into the swollen and windy corpulence of the modern compromise, that
is at once cosy and cruel. For there is really in our world to-day the
colour and silence of the cushioned divan; and that sense of palace
within palace and garden within garden which makes the rich
irresponsibility of the East. Have we not already the wordless dance,
the wineless banquet, and all that strange unchristian conception of
luxury without laughter? Are we not already in an evil Arabian Nights,
and walking the nightmare cities of an invisible despot? Does not our
hangman strangle secretly, the bearer of the bow string? Are we not
already eugenists--that is, eunuch-makers? Do we not see the bright
eyes, the motionless faces, and all that presence of something that is
dead and yet sleepless? It is the presence of the sin that is sealed
with pride and impenitence; the story of how the Sultan got his
throne. But it is not the story he is listening to just now, but
another story which has been invented to cover it--the story called
"Eugenius: or the Adventures of One Not Born," a most varied and
entrancing tale, which never fails to send him to sleep.



He awoke in the Dark Ages and smelt dawn in the dark, and knew he was
not wholly a slave. It was as if, in some tale of Hans Andersen, a
stick or a stool had been left in the garden all night and had grown
alive and struck root like a tree. For this is the truth behind the
old legal fiction of the servile countries, that the slave is a
"chattel," that is a piece of furniture like a stick or a stool. In
the spiritual sense, I am certain it was never so unwholesome a fancy
as the spawn of Nietzsche suppose to-day. No human being, pagan or
Christian, I am certain, ever thought of another human being as a
chair or a table. The mind cannot base itself on the idea that a comet
is a cabbage; nor can it on the idea that a man is a stool. No man was
ever unconscious of another's presence--or even indifferent to
another's opinion. The lady who is said to have boasted her
indifference to being naked before male slaves was showing off--or she
meant something different. The lord who fed fishes by killing a slave
was indulging in what most cannibals indulge in--a satanist
affectation. The lady was consciously shameless and the lord was
consciously cruel. But it simply is not in the human reason to carve
men like wood or examine women like ivory, just as it is not in the
human reason to think that two and two make five.

But there was this truth in the legal simile of furniture: that the
slave, though certainly a man, was in one sense a dead man; in the
sense that he was _moveable_. His locomotion was not his own: his
master moved his arms and legs for him as if he were a marionette. Now
it is important in the first degree to realise here what would be
involved in such a fable as I have imagined, of a stool rooting itself
like a shrub. For the general modern notion certainly is that life and
liberty are in some way to be associated with novelty and not standing
still. But it is just because the stool is lifeless that it moves
about. It is just because the tree is alive that it does stand still.
That was the main difference between the pagan slave and the Christian
serf. The serf still belonged to the lord, as the stick that struck
root in the garden would have still belonged to the owner of the
garden; but it would have become a _live_ possession. Therefore the
owner is forced, by the laws of nature, to treat it with _some_
respect; something becomes due from him. He cannot pull it up without
killing it; it has gained a _place_ in the garden--or the society. But
the moderns are quite wrong in supposing that mere change and holiday
and variety have necessarily any element of this life that is the only
seed of liberty. You may say if you like that an employer, taking all
his workpeople to a new factory in a Garden City, is giving them the
greater freedom of forest landscapes and smokeless skies. If it comes
to that, you can say that the slave-traders took negroes from their
narrow and brutish African hamlets, and gave them the polish of
foreign travel and medicinal breezes of a sea-voyage. But the tiny
seed of citizenship and independence there already was in the serfdom
of the Dark Ages, had nothing to do with what nice things the lord
might do to the serf. It lay in the fact that there were some nasty
things he could not do to the serf--there were not many, but there
were some, and one of them was eviction. He could not make the serf
utterly landless and desperate, utterly without access to the means of
production, though doubtless it was rather the field that owned the
serf, than the serf that owned the field. But even if you call the
serf a beast of the field, he was not what we have tried to make the
town workman--a beast with no field. Foulon said of the French
peasants, "Let them eat grass." If he had said it of the modern London
proletariat, they might well reply, "You have not left us even grass
to eat."

There was, therefore, both in theory and practice, _some_ security for
the serf, because he had come to life and rooted. The seigneur could
not wait in the field in all weathers with a battle-axe to prevent the
serf scratching any living out of the ground, any more than the man in
my fairy-tale could sit out in the garden all night with an umbrella
to prevent the shrub getting any rain. The relation of lord and serf,
therefore, involves a combination of two things: inequality and
security. I know there are people who will at once point wildly to all
sorts of examples, true and false, of insecurity of life in the Middle
Ages; but these are people who do not grasp what we mean by the
characteristic institutions of a society. For the matter of that,
there are plenty of examples of equality in the Middle Ages, as the
craftsmen in their guild or the monks electing their abbot. But just
as modern England is not a feudal country, though there is a quaint
survival called Heralds' College--or Ireland is not a commercial
country, though there is a quaint survival called Belfast--it is true
of the bulk and shape of that society that came out of the Dark Ages
and ended at the Reformation, that it did not care about giving
everybody an equal position, but did care about giving everybody a
position. So that by the very beginning of that time even the slave
had become a slave one could not get rid of, like the Scotch servant
who stubbornly asserted that if his master didn't know a good servant
he knew a good master. The free peasant, in ancient or modern times,
is free to go or stay. The slave, in ancient times, was free neither
to go nor stay. The serf was not free to go; but he was free to stay.

Now what have we done with this man? It is quite simple. There is no
historical complexity about it in that respect. We have taken away his
freedom to stay. We have turned him out of his field, and whether it
was injustice, like turning a free farmer out of his field, or only
cruelty to animals, like turning a cow out of its field, the fact
remains that he is out in the road. First and last, we have simply
destroyed the security. We have not in the least destroyed the
inequality. All classes, all creatures, kind or cruel, still see this
lowest stratum of society as separate from the upper strata and even
the middle strata; he is as separate as the serf. A monster fallen
from Mars, ignorant of our simplest word, would know the tramp was at
the bottom of the ladder, as well as he would have known it of the
serf. The walls of mud are no longer round his boundaries, but only
round his boots. The coarse, bristling hedge is at the end of his
chin, and not of his garden. But mud and bristles still stand out
round him like a horrific halo, and separate him from his kind. The
Martian would have no difficulty in seeing he was the poorest person
in the nation. It is just as impossible that he should marry an
heiress, or fight a duel with a duke, or contest a seat at
Westminster, or enter a club in Pall Mall, or take a scholarship at
Balliol, or take a seat at an opera, or propose a good law, or protest
against a bad one, as it was impossible to the serf. Where he differs
is in something very different. He has lost what was possible to the
serf. He can no longer scratch the bare earth by day or sleep on the
bare earth by night, without being collared by a policeman.

Now when I say that this man has been oppressed as hardly any other
man on this earth has been oppressed, I am not using rhetoric: I have
a clear meaning which I am confident of explaining to any honest
reader. I do not say he has been treated worse: I say he has been
treated differently from the unfortunate in all ages. And the
difference is this: that all the others were told to do something, and
killed or tortured if they did anything else. This man is not told to
do something: he is merely forbidden to do anything. When he was a
slave, they said to him, "Sleep in this shed; I will beat you if you
sleep anywhere else." When he was a serf, they said to him, "Let me
find you in this field: I will hang you if I find you in anyone else's
field." But now he is a tramp they say to him, "You shall be jailed if
I find you in anyone else's field: _but I will not give you a field_."
They say, "You shall be punished if you are caught sleeping outside
your shed: _but there is no shed_." If you say that modern
magistracies could never say such mad contradictions, I answer with
entire certainty that they do say them. A little while ago two tramps
were summoned before a magistrate, charged with sleeping in the open
air when they had nowhere else to sleep. But this is not the full fun
of the incident. The real fun is that each of them eagerly produced
about twopence, to prove that they could have got a bed, but
deliberately didn't. To which the policeman replied that twopence
would not have got them a bed: that they could not possibly have got a
bed: and _therefore_ (argued that thoughtful officer) they ought to
be punished for not getting one. The intelligent magistrate was much
struck with the argument: and proceeded to imprison these two men for
not doing a thing they could not do. But he was careful to explain
that if they had sinned needlessly and in wanton lawlessness, they
would have left the court without a stain on their characters; but as
they could not avoid it, they were very much to blame. These things
are being done in every part of England every day. They have their
parallels even in every daily paper; but they have no parallel in any
other earthly people or period; except in that insane command to make
bricks without straw which brought down all the plagues of Egypt. For
the common historical joke about Henry VIII. hanging a man for being
Catholic and burning him for being Protestant is a symbolic joke only.
The sceptic in the Tudor time could do something: he could always
agree with Henry VIII. The desperate man to-day can do nothing. For
you cannot agree with a maniac who sits on the bench with the straws
sticking out of his hair and says, "Procure threepence from nowhere
and I will give you leave to do without it."

If it be answered that he can go to the workhouse, I reply that such
an answer is founded on confused thinking. It is true that he is free
to go to the workhouse, but only in the same sense in which he is free
to go to jail, only in the same sense in which the serf under the
gibbet was free to find peace in the grave. Many of the poor greatly
prefer the grave to the workhouse, but that is not at all my argument
here. The point is this: that it could not have been the general
policy of a lord towards serfs to kill them all like wasps. It could
not have been his standing "Advice to Serfs" to say, "Get hanged." It
cannot be the standing advice of magistrates to citizens to go to
prison. And, precisely as plainly, it cannot be the standing advice of
rich men to very poor men to go to the workhouses. For that would mean
the rich raising their own poor rates enormously to keep a vast and
expensive establishment of slaves. Now it may come to this, as Mr.
Belloc maintains, but it is not the theory on which what we call the
workhouse does in fact rest. The very shape (and even the very size)
of a workhouse express the fact that it was founded for certain quite
exceptional human failures--like the lunatic asylum. Say to a man, "Go
to the madhouse," and he will say, "Wherein am I mad?" Say to a tramp
under a hedge, "Go to the house of exceptional failures," and he will
say with equal reason, "I travel because I have no house; I walk
because I have no horse; I sleep out because I have no bed. Wherein
have I failed?" And he may have the intelligence to add, "Indeed, your
worship, if somebody has failed, I think it is not I." I concede, with
all due haste, that he might perhaps say "me."

The speciality then of this man's wrong is that it is the only
historic wrong that has in it the quality of _nonsense_. It could only
happen in a nightmare; not in a clear and rational hell. It is the top
point of that anarchy in the governing mind which, as I said at the
beginning, is the main trait of modernity, especially in England. But
if the first note in our policy is madness, the next note is certainly
meanness. There are two peculiarly mean and unmanly legal mantraps in
which this wretched man is tripped up. The first is that which
prevents him from doing what any ordinary savage or nomad would
do--take his chance of an uneven subsistence on the rude bounty of

There is something very abject about forbidding this; because it is
precisely this adventurous and vagabond spirit which the educated
classes praise most in their books, poems and speeches. To feel the
drag of the roads, to hunt in nameless hills and fish in secret
streams, to have no address save "Over the Hills and Far Away," to be
ready to breakfast on berries and the daybreak and sup on the sunset
and a sodden crust, to feed on wild things and be a boy again, all
this is the heartiest and sincerest impulse in recent culture, in the
songs and tales of Stevenson, in the cult of George Borrow and in the
delightful little books published by Mr. E.V. Lucas. It is the one
true excuse in the core of Imperialism; and it faintly softens the
squalid prose and wooden-headed wickedness of the Self-Made Man who
"came up to London with twopence in his pocket." But when a poorer but
braver man with less than twopence in his pocket does the very thing
we are always praising, makes the blue heavens his house, we send him
to a house built for infamy and flogging. We take poverty itself and
only permit it with a property qualification; we only allow a man to
be poor if he is rich. And we do this most savagely if he has sought
to snatch his life by that particular thing of which our boyish
adventure stories are fullest--hunting and fishing. The extremely
severe English game laws hit most heavily what the highly reckless
English romances praise most irresponsibly. All our literature is full
of praise of the chase--especially of the wild goose chase. But if a
poor man followed, as Tennyson says, "far as the wild swan wings to
where the world dips down to sea and sands," Tennyson would scarcely
allow him to catch it. If he found the wildest goose in the wildest
fenland in the wildest regions of the sunset, he would very probably
discover that the rich never sleep; and that there are no wild things
in England.

In short, the English ruler is always appealing to a nation of
sportsmen and concentrating all his efforts on preventing them from
having any sport. The Imperialist is always pointing out with
exultation that the common Englishman can live by adventure anywhere
on the globe, but if the common Englishman tries to live by adventure
in England, he is treated as harshly as a thief, and almost as harshly
as an honest journalist. This is hypocrisy: the magistrate who gives
his son "Treasure Island" and then imprisons a tramp is a hypocrite;
the squire who is proud of English colonists and indulgent to English
schoolboys, but cruel to English poachers, is drawing near that deep
place wherein all liars have their part. But our point here is that
the baseness is in the idea of _bewildering_ the tramp; of leaving
him no place for repentance. It is quite true, of course, that in the
days of slavery or of serfdom the needy were fenced by yet fiercer
penalties from spoiling the hunting of the rich. But in the older case
there were two very important differences, the second of which is our
main subject in this chapter. The first is that in a comparatively
wild society, however fond of hunting, it seems impossible that
enclosing and game-keeping can have been so omnipresent and efficient
as in a society full of maps and policemen. The second difference is
the one already noted: that if the slave or semi-slave was forbidden
to get his food in the greenwood, he was told to get it somewhere
else. The note of unreason was absent.

This is the first meanness; and the second is like unto it. If there
is one thing of which cultivated modern letters is full besides
adventure it is altruism. We are always being told to help others, to
regard our wealth as theirs, to do what good we can, for we shall not
pass this way again. We are everywhere urged by humanitarians to help
lame dogs over stiles--though some humanitarians, it is true, seem to
feel a colder interest in the case of lame men and women. Still, the
chief fact of our literature, among all historic literatures, is human
charity. But what is the chief fact of our legislation? The great
outstanding fact of modern legislation, among all historic
legislations, is the forbidding of human charity. It is this
astonishing paradox, a thing in the teeth of all logic and
conscience, that a man that takes another man's money with his leave
can be punished as if he had taken it without his leave. All through
those dark or dim ages behind us, through times of servile stagnation,
of feudal insolence, of pestilence and civil strife and all else that
can war down the weak, for the weak to ask for charity was counted
lawful, and to give that charity, admirable. In all other centuries,
in short, the casual bad deeds of bad men could be partly patched and
mended by the casual good deeds of good men. But this is now
forbidden; for it would leave the tramp a last chance if he could beg.

Now it will be evident by this time that the interesting scientific
experiment on the tramp entirely depends on leaving him _no_ chance,
and not (like the slave) one chance. Of the economic excuses offered
for the persecution of beggars it will be more natural to speak in the
next chapter. It will suffice here to say that they are mere excuses,
for a policy that has been persistent while probably largely
unconscious, with a selfish and atheistic unconsciousness. That policy
was directed towards something--or it could never have cut so cleanly
and cruelly across the sentimental but sincere modern trends to
adventure and altruism. Its object is soon stated. It was directed
towards making the very poor man work for the capitalist, for any
wages or none. But all this, which I shall also deal with in the next
chapter, is here only important as introducing the last truth touching
the man of despair. The game laws have taken from him his human
command of Nature. The mendicancy laws have taken from him his human
demand on Man. There is one human thing left it is much harder to take
from him. Debased by him and his betters, it is still something
brought out of Eden, where God made him a demigod: it does not depend
on money and but little on time. He can create in his own image. The
terrible truth is in the heart of a hundred legends and mysteries. As
Jupiter could be hidden from all-devouring Time, as the Christ Child
could be hidden from Herod--so the child unborn is still hidden from
the omniscient oppressor. He who lives not yet, he and he alone is
left; and they seek his life to take it away.



He does not live in a dark lonely tower by the sea, from which are
heard the screams of vivisected men and women. On the contrary, he
lives in Mayfair. He does not wear great goblin spectacles that
magnify his eyes to moons or diminish his neighbours to beetles. When
he is more dignified he wears a single eyeglass; when more
intelligent, a wink. He is not indeed wholly without interest in
heredity and Eugenical biology; but his studies and experiments in
this science have specialised almost exclusively in _equus celer_, the
rapid or running horse. He is not a doctor; though he employs doctors
to work up a case for Eugenics, just as he employs doctors to correct
the errors of his dinner. He is not a lawyer, though unfortunately
often a magistrate. He is not an author or a journalist; though he not
infrequently owns a newspaper. He is not a soldier, though he may have
a commission in the yeomanry; nor is he generally a gentleman, though
often a nobleman. His wealth now commonly comes from a large staff of
employed persons who scurry about in big buildings while he is playing
golf. But he very often laid the foundations of his fortune in a very
curious and poetical way, the nature of which I have never fully
understood. It consisted in his walking about the street without a hat
and going up to another man and saying, "Suppose I have two hundred
whales out of the North Sea." To which the other man replied, "And let
us imagine that I am in possession of two thousand elephants' tusks."
They then exchange, and the first man goes up to a third man and says,
"Supposing me to have lately come into the possession of two thousand
elephants' tusks, would you, etc.?" If you play this game well, you
become very rich; if you play it badly you have to kill yourself or
try your luck at the Bar. The man I am speaking about must have played
it well, or at any rate successfully.

He was born about 1860; and has been a member of Parliament since
about 1890. For the first half of his life he was a Liberal; for the
second half he has been a Conservative; but his actual policy in
Parliament has remained largely unchanged and consistent. His policy
in Parliament is as follows: he takes a seat in a room downstairs at
Westminster, and takes from his breast pocket an excellent cigar-case,
from which in turn he takes an excellent cigar. This he lights, and
converses with other owners of such cigars on _equus celer_ or such
matters as may afford him entertainment. Two or three times in the
afternoon a bell rings; whereupon he deposits the cigar in an ashtray
with great particularity, taking care not to break the ash, and
proceeds to an upstairs room, flanked with two passages. He then walks
into whichever of the two passages shall be indicated to him by a
young man of the upper classes, holding a slip of paper. Having gone
into this passage he comes out of it again, is counted by the young
man and proceeds downstairs again; where he takes up the cigar once
more, being careful not to break the ash. This process, which is known
as Representative Government, has never called for any great variety
in the manner of his life. Nevertheless, while his Parliamentary
policy is unchanged, his change from one side of the House to the
other did correspond with a certain change in his general policy in
commerce and social life. The change of the party label is by this
time quite a trifling matter; but there was in his case a change of
philosophy or at least a change of project; though it was not so much
becoming a Tory, as becoming rather the wrong kind of Socialist. He is
a man with a history. It is a sad history, for he is certainly a less
good man than he was when he started. That is why he is the man who is
really behind Eugenics. It is because he has degenerated that he has
come to talking of Degeneration.

In his Radical days (to quote from one who corresponded in some ways
to this type) he was a much better man, because he was a much less
enlightened one. The hard impudence of his first Manchester
Individualism was softened by two relatively humane qualities; the
first was a much greater manliness in his pride; the second was a much
greater sincerity in his optimism. For the first point, the modern
capitalist is merely industrial; but this man was also industrious.
He was proud of hard work; nay, he was even proud of low work--if he
could speak of it in the past and not the present. In fact, he
invented a new kind of Victorian snobbishness, an inverted
snobbishness. While the snobs of Thackeray turned Muggins into De
Mogyns, while the snobs of Dickens wrote letters describing themselves
as officers' daughters "accustomed to every luxury--except spelling,"
the Individualist spent his life in hiding his prosperous parents. He
was more like an American plutocrat when he began; but he has since
lost the American simplicity. The Frenchman works until he can play.
The American works until he can't play; and then thanks the devil, his
master, that he is donkey enough to die in harness. But the
Englishman, as he has since become, works until he can pretend that he
never worked at all. He becomes as far as possible another person--a
country gentleman who has never heard of his shop; one whose left hand
holding a gun knows not what his right hand doeth in a ledger. He uses
a peerage as an alias, and a large estate as a sort of alibi. A stern
Scotch minister remarked concerning the game of golf, with a terrible
solemnity of manner, "the man who plays golf--he neglects his
business, he forsakes his wife, he forgets his God." He did not seem
to realise that it is the chief aim of many a modern capitalist's life
to forget all three.

This abandonment of a boyish vanity in work, this substitution of a
senile vanity in indolence, this is the first respect in which the
rich Englishman has fallen. He was more of a man when he was at least
a master-workman and not merely a master. And the second important
respect in which he was better at the beginning is this: that he did
then, in some hazy way, half believe that he was enriching other
people as well as himself. The optimism of the early Victorian
Individualists was not wholly hypocritical. Some of the
clearest-headed and blackest-hearted of them, such as Malthus, saw
where things were going, and boldly based their Manchester city on
pessimism instead of optimism. But this was not the general case; most
of the decent rich of the Bright and Cobden sort did have a kind of
confused faith that the economic conflict would work well in the long
run for everybody. They thought the troubles of the poor were
incurable by State action (they thought that of all troubles), but
they did not cold-bloodedly contemplate the prospect of those troubles
growing worse and worse. By one of those tricks or illusions of the
brain to which the luxurious are subject in all ages, they sometimes
seemed to feel as if the populace had triumphed symbolically in their
own persons. They blasphemously thought about their thrones of gold
what can only be said about a cross--that they, being lifted up, would
draw all men after them. They were so full of the romance that anybody
could be Lord Mayor, that they seemed to have slipped into thinking
that everybody could. It seemed as if a hundred Dick Whittingtons,
accompanied by a hundred cats, could all be accommodated at the
Mansion House. It was all nonsense; but it was not (until later) all

Step by step, however, with a horrid and increasing clearness, this
man discovered what he was doing. It is generally one of the worst
discoveries a man can make. At the beginning, the British plutocrat
was probably quite as honest in suggesting that every tramp carried a
magic cat like Dick Whittington, as the Bonapartist patriot was in
saying that every French soldier carried a marshal's _baton_ in his
knapsack. But it is exactly here that the difference and the danger
appears. There is no comparison between a well-managed thing like
Napoleon's army and an unmanageable thing like modern competition.
Logically, doubtless, it was impossible that every soldier should
carry a marshal's _baton_; they could not all be marshals any more
than they could all be mayors. But if the French soldier did not
always have a _baton_ in his knapsack, he always had a knapsack. But
when that Self-Helper who bore the adorable name of Smiles told the
English tramp that he carried a coronet in his bundle, the English
tramp had an unanswerable answer. He pointed out that he had no
bundle. The powers that ruled him had not fitted him with a knapsack,
any more than they had fitted him with a future--or even a present.
The destitute Englishman, so far from hoping to become anything, had
never been allowed even to be anything. The French soldier's ambition
may have been in practice not only a short, but even a deliberately
shortened ladder, in which the top rungs were knocked out. But for
the English it was the bottom rungs that were knocked out, so that
they could not even begin to climb. And sooner or later, in exact
proportion to his intelligence, the English plutocrat began to
understand not only that the poor were impotent, but that their
impotence had been his only power. The truth was not merely that his
riches had left them poor; it was that nothing but their poverty could
have been strong enough to make him rich. It is this paradox, as we
shall see, that creates the curious difference between him and every
other kind of robber.

I think it is no more than justice to him to say that the knowledge,
where it has come to him, has come to him slowly; and I think it came
(as most things of common sense come) rather vaguely and as in a
vision--that is, by the mere look of things. The old Cobdenite
employer was quite within his rights in arguing that earth is not
heaven, that the best obtainable arrangement might contain many
necessary evils; and that Liverpool and Belfast might be growing more
prosperous as a whole in spite of pathetic things that might be seen
there. But I simply do not believe he has been able to look at
Liverpool and Belfast and continue to think this: that is why he has
turned himself into a sham country gentleman. Earth is not heaven, but
the nearest we can get to heaven ought not to _look_ like hell; and
Liverpool and Belfast look like hell, whether they are or not. Such
cities might be growing prosperous as a whole, though a few citizens
were more miserable. But it was more and more broadly apparent that it
was exactly and precisely _as a whole_ that they were not growing more
prosperous, but only the few citizens who were growing more prosperous
by their increasing misery. You could not say a country was becoming a
white man's country when there were more and more black men in it
every day. You could not say a community was more and more masculine
when it was producing more and more women. Nor can you say that a city
is growing richer and richer when more and more of its inhabitants are
very poor men. There might be a false agitation founded on the pathos
of individual cases in a community pretty normal in bulk. But the fact
is that no one can take a cab across Liverpool without having a quite
complete and unified impression that the pathos is not a pathos of
individual cases, but a pathos in bulk. People talk of the Celtic
sadness; but there are very few things in Ireland that look so sad as
the Irishman in Liverpool. The desolation of Tara is cheery compared
with the desolation of Belfast. I recommend Mr. Yeats and his mournful
friends to turn their attention to the pathos of Belfast. I think if
they hung up the harp that once in Lord Furness's factory, there would
be a chance of another string breaking.

Broadly, and as things bulk to the eye, towns like Leeds, if placed
beside towns like Rouen or Florence, or Chartres, or Cologne, do
actually look like beggars walking among burghers. After that
overpowering and unpleasant impression it is really useless to argue
that they are richer because a few of their parasites get rich enough
to live somewhere else. The point may be put another way, thus: that
it is not so much that these more modern cities have this or that
monopoly of good or evil; it is that they have every good in its
fourth-rate form and every evil in its worst form. For instance, that
interesting weekly paper _The Nation_ amiably rebuked Mr. Belloc and
myself for suggesting that revelry and the praise of fermented liquor
were more characteristic of Continental and Catholic communities than
of communities with the religion and civilisation of Belfast. It said
that if we would "cross the border" into Scotland, we should find out
our mistake. Now, not only have I crossed the border, but I have had
considerable difficulty in crossing the road in a Scotch town on a
festive evening. Men were literally lying like piled-up corpses in the
gutters, and from broken bottles whisky was pouring down the drains. I
am not likely, therefore, to attribute a total and arid abstinence to
the whole of industrial Scotland. But I never said that drinking was a
mark rather of the Catholic countries. I said that _moderate_ drinking
was a mark rather of the Catholic countries. In other words, I say of
the common type of Continental citizen, not that he is the only person
who is drinking, but that he is the only person who knows how to
drink. Doubtless gin is as much a feature of Hoxton as beer is a
feature of Munich. But who is the connoisseur who prefers the gin of
Hoxton to the beer of Munich? Doubtless the Protestant Scotch ask for
"Scotch," as the men of Burgundy ask for Burgundy. But do we find them
lying in heaps on each side of the road when we walk through a
Burgundian village? Do we find the French peasant ready to let
Burgundy escape down a drain-pipe? Now this one point, on which I
accept _The Nation's_ challenge, can be exactly paralleled on almost
every point by which we test a civilisation. It does not matter
whether we are for alcohol or against it. On either argument Glasgow
is more objectionable than Rouen. The French abstainer makes less
fuss; the French drinker gives less offence. It is so with property,
with war, with everything. I can understand a teetotaler being
horrified, on his principles, at Italian wine-drinking. I simply
cannot believe he could be _more_ horrified at it than at Hoxton
gin-drinking. I can understand a Pacifist, with his special scruples,
disliking the militarism of Belfort. I flatly deny that he can dislike
it _more_ than the militarism of Berlin. I can understand a good
Socialist hating the petty cares of the distributed peasant property.
I deny that any good Socialist can hate them _more_ than he hates the
large cares of Rockefeller. That is the unique tragedy of the
plutocratic state to-day; it has _no_ successes to hold up against the
failures it alleges to exist in Latin or other methods. You can (if
you are well out of his reach) call the Irish rustic debased and
superstitious. I defy you to contrast his debasement and superstition
with the citizenship and enlightenment of the English rustic.

To-day the rich man knows in his heart that he is a cancer and not an
organ of the State. He differs from all other thieves or parasites for
this reason: that the brigand who takes by force wishes his victims to
be rich. But he who wins by a one-sided contract actually wishes them
to be poor. Rob Roy in a cavern, hearing a company approaching, will
hope (or if in a pious mood, pray) that they may come laden with gold
or goods. But Mr. Rockefeller, in his factory, knows that if those who
pass are laden with goods they will pass on. He will therefore (if in
a pious mood) pray that they may be destitute, and so be forced to
work his factory for him for a starvation wage. It is said (and also,
I believe, disputed) that Blücher riding through the richer parts of
London exclaimed, "What a city to sack!" But Blücher was a soldier if
he was a bandit. The true sweater feels quite otherwise. It is when he
drives through the poorest parts of London that he finds the streets
paved with gold, being paved with prostrate servants; it is when he
sees the grey lean leagues of Bow and Poplar that his soul is uplifted
and he knows he is secure. This is not rhetoric, but economics.

I repeat that up to a point the profiteer was innocent because he was
ignorant; he had been lured on by easy and accommodating events. He
was innocent as the new Thane of Glamis was innocent, as the new Thane
of Cawdor was innocent; but the King---- The modern manufacturer, like
Macbeth, decided to march on, under the mute menace of the heavens.
He knew that the spoil of the poor was in his houses; but he could
not, after careful calculation, think of any way in which they could
get it out of his houses without being arrested for housebreaking. He
faced the future with a face flinty with pride and impenitence. This
period can be dated practically by the period when the old and genuine
Protestant religion of England began to fail; and the average business
man began to be agnostic, not so much because he did not know where he
was, as because he wanted to forget. Many of the rich took to
scepticism exactly as the poor took to drink; because it was a way
out. But in any case, the man who had made a mistake not only refused
to unmake it, but decided to go on making it. But in this he made yet
another most amusing mistake, which was the beginning of all



By a quaint paradox, we generally miss the meaning of simple stories
because we are not subtle enough to understand their simplicity. As
long as men were in sympathy with some particular religion or other
romance of things in general, they saw the thing solid and swallowed
it whole, knowing that it could not disagree with them. But the moment
men have lost the instinct of being simple in order to understand it,
they have to be very subtle in order to understand it. We can find,
for instance, a very good working case in those old puritanical
nursery tales about the terrible punishment of trivial sins; about how
Tommy was drowned for fishing on the Sabbath, or Sammy struck by
lightning for going out after dark. Now these moral stories are
immoral, because Calvinism is immoral. They are wrong, because
Puritanism is wrong. But they are not quite so wrong, they are not a
quarter so wrong, as many superficial sages have supposed.

The truth is that everything that ever came out of a human mouth had a
human meaning; and not one of the fixed fools of history was such a
fool as he looks. And when our great-uncles or great-grandmothers
told a child he might be drowned by breaking the Sabbath, their souls
(though undoubtedly, as Touchstone said, in a parlous state) were not
in quite so simple a state as is suggested by supposing that their god
was a devil who dropped babies into the Thames for a trifle. This form
of religious literature is a morbid form if taken by itself; but it
did correspond to a certain reality in psychology which most people of
any religion, or even of none, have felt a touch of at some time or
other. Leaving out theological terms as far as possible, it is the
subconscious feeling that one can be wrong with Nature as well as
right with Nature; that the point of wrongness may be a detail (in the
superstitions of heathens this is often quite a triviality); but that
if one is really wrong with Nature, there is no particular reason why
all her rivers should not drown or all her storm-bolts strike one who
is, by this vague yet vivid hypothesis, her enemy. This may be a
mental sickness, but it is too human or too mortal a sickness to be
called solely a superstition. It is not solely a superstition; it is
not simply superimposed upon human nature by something that has got on
top of it. It flourishes without check among non-Christian systems,
and it flourishes especially in Calvinism, because Calvinism is the
most non-Christian of Christian systems. But like everything else that
inheres in the natural senses and spirit of man, it has something in
it; it is not stark unreason. If it is an ill (and it generally is),
it is one of the ills that flesh is heir to, but he is the lawful
heir. And like many other dubious or dangerous human instincts or
appetites, it is sometimes useful as a warning against worse things.

Now the trouble of the nineteenth century very largely came from the
loss of this; the loss of what we may call the natural and heathen
mysticism. When modern critics say that Julius Caesar did not believe
in Jupiter, or that Pope Leo did not believe in Catholicism, they
overlook an essential difference between those ages and ours. Perhaps
Julius did not believe in Jupiter; but he did not disbelieve in
Jupiter. There was nothing in his philosophy, or the philosophy of
that age, that could forbid him to think that there was a spirit
personal and predominant in the world. But the modern materialists are
not permitted to doubt; they are forbidden to believe. Hence, while
the heathen might avail himself of accidental omens, queer
coincidences or casual dreams, without knowing for certain whether
they were really hints from heaven or premonitory movements in his own
brain, the modern Christian turned heathen must not entertain such
notions at all, but must reject the oracle as the altar. The modern
sceptic was drugged against all that was natural in the supernatural.
And this was why the modern tyrant marched upon his doom, as a tyrant
literally pagan might possibly not have done.

There is one idea of this kind that runs through most popular tales
(those, for instance, on which Shakespeare is so often based)--an idea
that is profoundly moral even if the tales are immoral. It is what
may be called the flaw in the deed: the idea that, if I take my
advantage to the full, I shall hear of something to my disadvantage.
Thus Midas fell into a fallacy about the currency; and soon had reason
to become something more than a Bimetallist. Thus Macbeth had a
fallacy about forestry; he could not see the trees for the wood. He
forgot that, though a place cannot be moved, the trees that grow on it
can. Thus Shylock had a fallacy of physiology; he forgot that, if you
break into the house of life, you find it a bloody house in the most
emphatic sense. But the modern capitalist did not read fairy-tales,
and never looked for the little omens at the turnings of the road. He
(or the most intelligent section of him) had by now realised his
position, and knew in his heart it was a false position. He thought a
margin of men out of work was good for his business; he could no
longer really think it was good for his country. He could no longer be
the old "hard-headed" man who simply did not understand things; he
could only be the hard-hearted man who faced them. But he still
marched on; he was sure he had made no mistake.

However, he had made a mistake--as definite as a mistake in
multiplication. It may be summarised thus: that the same inequality
and insecurity that makes cheap labour may make bad labour, and at
last no labour at all. It was as if a man who wanted something from an
enemy, should at last reduce the enemy to come knocking at his door in
the despair of winter, should keep him waiting in the snow to sharpen
the bargain; and then come out to find the man dead upon the doorstep.

He had discovered the divine boomerang; his sin had found him out. The
experiment of Individualism--the keeping of the worker half in and
half out of work--was far too ingenious not to contain a flaw. It was
too delicate a balance to work entirely with the strength of the
starved and the vigilance of the benighted. It was too desperate a
course to rely wholly on desperation. And as time went on the terrible
truth slowly declared itself; the degraded class was really
degenerating. It was right and proper enough to use a man as a tool;
but the tool, ceaselessly used, was being used up. It was quite
reasonable and respectable, of course, to fling a man away like a
tool; but when it was flung away in the rain the tool rusted. But the
comparison to a tool was insufficient for an awful reason that had
already begun to dawn upon the master's mind. If you pick up a hammer,
you do not find a whole family of nails clinging to it. If you fling
away a chisel by the roadside, it does not litter and leave a lot of
little chisels. But the meanest of the tools, Man, had still this
strange privilege which God had given him, doubtless by mistake.
Despite all improvements in machinery, the most important part of the
machinery (the fittings technically described in the trade as "hands")
were apparently growing worse. The firm was not only encumbered with
one useless servant, but he immediately turned himself into five
useless servants. "The poor should not be emancipated," the old
reactionaries used to say, "until they are fit for freedom." But if
this downrush went on, it looked as if the poor would not stand high
enough to be fit for slavery.

So at least it seemed, doubtless in a great degree subconsciously, to
the man who had wagered all his wealth on the usefulness of the poor
to the rich and the dependence of the rich on the poor. The time came
at last when the rather reckless breeding in the abyss below ceased to
be a supply, and began to be something like a wastage; ceased to be
something like keeping foxhounds, and began alarmingly to resemble a
necessity of shooting foxes. The situation was aggravated by the fact
that these sexual pleasures were often the only ones the very poor
could obtain, and were, therefore, disproportionately pursued, and by
the fact that their conditions were often such that prenatal
nourishment and such things were utterly abnormal. The consequences
began to appear. To a much less extent than the Eugenists assert, but
still to a notable extent, in a much looser sense than the Eugenists
assume, but still in some sort of sense, the types that were
inadequate or incalculable or uncontrollable began to increase. Under
the hedges of the country, on the seats of the parks, loafing under
the bridges or leaning over the Embankment, began to appear a new race
of men--men who are certainly not mad, whom we shall gain no
scientific light by calling feeble-minded, but who are, in varying
individual degrees, dazed or drink-sodden, or lazy or tricky or tired
in body and spirit. In a far less degree than the teetotallers tell
us, but still in a large degree, the traffic in gin and bad beer
(itself a capitalist enterprise) fostered the evil, though it had not
begun it. Men who had no human bond with the instructed man, men who
seemed to him monsters and creatures without mind, became an eyesore
in the market-place and a terror on the empty roads. The rich were

Moreover, as I have hinted before, the act of keeping the destitute
out of public life, and crushing them under confused laws, had an
effect on their intelligences which paralyses them even as a
proletariat. Modern people talk of "Reason versus Authority"; but
authority itself involves reason, or its orders would not even be
understood. If you say to your valet, "Look after the buttons on my
waistcoat," he may do it, even if you throw a boot at his head. But if
you say to him, "Look after the buttons on my top-hat," he will not do
it, though you empty a boot-shop over him. If you say to a schoolboy,
"Write out that Ode of Horace from memory in the original Latin," he
may do it without a flogging. If you say, "Write out that Ode of
Horace in the original German," he will not do it with a thousand
floggings. If you will not learn logic, he certainly will not learn
Latin. And the ludicrous laws to which the needy are subject (such as
that which punishes the homeless for not going home) have really, I
think, a great deal to do with a certain increase in their
sheepishness and short-wittedness, and, therefore, in their industrial
inefficiency. By one of the monstrosities of the feeble-minded theory,
a man actually acquitted by judge and jury could _then_ be examined by
doctors as to the state of his mind--presumably in order to discover
by what diseased eccentricity he had refrained from the crime. In
other words, when the police cannot jail a man who is innocent of
doing something, they jail him for being too innocent to do anything.
I do not suppose the man is an idiot at all, but I can believe he
feels more like one after the legal process than before. Thus all the
factors--the bodily exhaustion, the harassing fear of hunger, the
reckless refuge in sexuality, and the black botheration of bad
laws--combined to make the employee more unemployable.

Now, it is very important to understand here that there were two
courses of action still open to the disappointed capitalist confronted
by the new peril of this real or alleged decay. First, he might have
reversed his machine, so to speak, and started unwinding the long rope
of dependence by which he had originally dragged the proletarian to
his feet. In other words, he might have seen that the workmen had more
money, more leisure, more luxuries, more status in the community, and
then trusted to the normal instincts of reasonably happy human beings
to produce a generation better born, bred and cared for than these
tortured types that were less and less use to him. It might still not
be too late to rebuild the human house upon such an architectural plan
that poverty might fly out of the window, with the reasonable prospect
of love coming in at the door. In short, he might have let the English
poor, the mass of whom were not weak-minded, though more of them were
growing weaker, a reasonable chance, in the form of more money, of
achieving their eugenical resurrection themselves. It has never been
shown, and it cannot be shown, that the method would have failed. But
it can be shown, and it must be closely and clearly noted, that the
method had very strict limitations from the employers' own point of
view. If they made the worker too comfortable, he would not work to
increase another's comforts; if they made him too independent, he
would not work like a dependent. If, for instance, his wages were so
good that he could save out of them, he might cease to be a
wage-earner. If his house or garden were his own, he might stand an
economic siege in it. The whole capitalist experiment had been built
on his dependence; but now it was getting out of hand, not in the
direction of freedom, but of frank helplessness. One might say that
his dependence had got independent of control.

But there was another way. And towards this the employer's ideas
began, first darkly and unconsciously, but now more and more clearly,
to drift. Giving property, giving leisure, giving status costs money.
But there is one human force that costs nothing. As it does not cost
the beggar a penny to indulge, so it would not cost the employer a
penny to employ. He could not alter or improve the tables or the
chairs on the cheap. But there were two pieces of furniture (labelled
respectively "the husband" and "the wife") whose relations were much
cheaper. He could alter the _marriage_ in the house in such a way as
to promise himself the largest possible number of the kind of children
he did want, with the smallest possible number of the kind he did
not. He could divert the force of sex from producing vagabonds. And he
could harness to his high engines unbought the red unbroken river of
the blood of a man in his youth, as he has already harnessed to them
all the wild waste rivers of the world.



Now, if any ask whether it be imaginable that an ordinary man of the
wealthier type should analyse the problem or conceive the plan, the
inhumanly far-seeing plan, as I have set it forth, the answer is:
"Certainly not." Many rich employers are too generous to do such a
thing; many are too stupid to know what they are doing. The eugenical
opportunity I have described is but an ultimate analysis of a whole
drift of thoughts in the type of man who does not analyse his
thoughts. He sees a slouching tramp, with a sick wife and a string of
rickety children, and honestly wonders what he can do with them. But
prosperity does not favour self-examination; and he does not even ask
himself whether he means "How can I help them?" or "How can I use
them?"--what he can still do for them, or what they could still do for
him. Probably he sincerely means both, but the latter much more than
the former; he laments the breaking of the tools of Mammon much more
than the breaking of the images of God. It would be almost impossible
to grope in the limbo of what he does think; but we can assert that
there is one thing he doesn't think. He doesn't think, "This man might
be as jolly as I am, if he need not come to me for work or wages."

That this is so, that at root the Eugenist is the Employer, there are
multitudinous proofs on every side, but they are of necessity
miscellaneous, and in many cases negative. The most enormous is in a
sense the most negative: that no one seems able to imagine capitalist
industrialism being sacrificed to any other object. By a curious
recurrent slip in the mind, as irritating as a catch in a clock,
people miss the main thing and concentrate on the mean thing. "Modern
conditions" are treated as fixed, though the very word "modern"
implies that they are fugitive. "Old ideas" are treated as impossible,
though their very antiquity often proves their permanence. Some years
ago some ladies petitioned that the platforms of our big railway
stations should be raised, as it was more convenient for the hobble
skirt. It never occurred to them to change to a sensible skirt. Still
less did it occur to them that, compared with all the female fashions
that have fluttered about on it, by this time St. Pancras is as
historic as St. Peter's.

I could fill this book with examples of the universal, unconscious
assumption that life and sex must live by the laws of "business" or
industrialism, and not _vice versa_; examples from all the magazines,
novels, and newspapers. In order to make it brief and typical, I take
one case of a more or less Eugenist sort from a paper that lies open
in front of me--a paper that still bears on its forehead the boast of
being peculiarly an organ of democracy in revolt. To this a man writes
to say that the spread of destitution will never be stopped until we
have educated the lower classes in the methods by which the upper
classes prevent procreation. The man had the horrible playfulness to
sign his letter "Hopeful." Well, there are certainly many methods by
which people in the upper classes prevent procreation; one of them is
what used to be called "platonic friendship," till they found another
name for it at the Old Bailey. I do not suppose the hopeful gentleman
hopes for this; but some of us find the abortion he does hope for
almost as abominable. That, however, is not the curious point. The
curious point is that the hopeful one concludes by saying, "When
people have large families and small wages, not only is there a high
infantile death-rate, but often those who do live to grow up are
stunted and weakened by having had to share the family income for a
time with those who died early. There would be less unhappiness if
there were no unwanted children." You will observe that he tacitly
takes it for granted that the small wages and the income, desperately
shared, are the fixed points, like day and night, the conditions of
human life. Compared with them marriage and maternity are luxuries,
things to be modified to suit the wage-market. There are unwanted
children; but unwanted by whom? This man does not really mean that the
parents do not want to have them. He means that the employers do not
want to pay them properly. Doubtless, if you said to him directly,
"Are you in favour of low wages?" he would say, "No." But I am not, in
this chapter, talking about the effect on such modern minds of a
cross-examination to which they do not subject themselves. I am
talking about the way their minds work, the instinctive trick and turn
of their thoughts, the things they assume before argument, and the way
they faintly feel that the world is going. And, frankly, the turn of
their mind is to tell the child he is not wanted, as the turn of my
mind is to tell the profiteer he is not wanted. Motherhood, they feel,
and a full childhood, and the beauty of brothers and sisters, are good
things in their way, but not so good as a bad wage. About the
mutilation of womanhood, and the massacre of men unborn, he signs
himself "Hopeful." He is hopeful of female indignity, hopeful of human
annihilation. But about improving the small bad wage he signs himself

This is the first evidence of motive: the ubiquitous assumption that
life and love must fit into a fixed framework of employment, even (as
in this case) of bad employment. The second evidence is the tacit and
total neglect of the scientific question in all the departments in
which it is not an employment question; as, for instance, the
marriages of the princely, patrician, or merely plutocratic houses. I
do not mean, of course, that no scientific men have rigidly tackled
these, though I do not recall any cases. But I am not talking of the
merits of individual men of science, but of the push and power behind
this movement, the thing that is able to make it fashionable and
politically important. I say, if this power were an interest in truth,
or even in humanity, the first field in which to study would be in the
weddings of the wealthy. Not only would the records be more lucid,
and the examples more in evidence, but the cases would be more
interesting and more decisive. For the grand marriages have presented
both extremes of the problem of pedigree--first the "breeding in and
in," and later the most incongruous cosmopolitan blends. It would
really be interesting to note which worked the best, or what point of
compromise was safest. For the poor (about whom the newspaper
Eugenists are always talking) cannot offer any test cases so complete.
Waiters never had to marry waitresses, as princes had to marry
princesses. And (for the other extreme) housemaids seldom marry Red
Indians. It may be because there are none to marry. But to the
millionaires the continents are flying railway stations, and the most
remote races can be rapidly linked together. A marriage in London or
Paris may chain Ravenna to Chicago, or Ben Cruachan to Bagdad. Many
European aristocrats marry Americans, notoriously the most mixed stock
in the world; so that the disinterested Eugenist, with a little
trouble, might reveal rich stores of negro or Asiatic blood to his
delighted employer. Instead of which he dulls our ears and distresses
our refinement by tedious denunciations of the monochrome marriages of
the poor.

For there is something really pathetic about the Eugenist's neglect of
the aristocrat and his family affairs. People still talk about the
pride of pedigree; but it strikes me as the one point on which the
aristocrats are almost morbidly modest. We should be learned Eugenists
if we were allowed to know half as much of their heredity as we are
of their hairdressing. We see the modern aristocrat in the most human
poses in the illustrated papers, playing with his dog or parrot--nay,
we see him playing with his child, or with his grandchild. But there
is something heartrending in his refusal to play with his grandfather.
There is often something vague and even fantastic about the
antecedents of our most established families, which would afford the
Eugenist admirable scope not only for investigation but for
experiment. Certainly, if he could obtain the necessary powers, the
Eugenist might bring off some startling effects with the mixed
materials of the governing class. Suppose, to take wild and
hypothetical examples, he were to marry a Scotch earl, say, to the
daughter of a Jewish banker, or an English duke to an American parvenu
of semi-Jewish extraction? What would happen? We have here an
unexplored field.

It remains unexplored not merely through snobbery and cowardice, but
because the Eugenist (at least the influential Eugenist)
half-consciously knows it is no part of his job; what he is really
wanted for is to get the grip of the governing classes on to the
unmanageable output of poor people. It would not matter in the least
if all Lord Cowdray's descendants grew up too weak to hold a tool or
turn a wheel. It would matter very much, especially to Lord Cowdray,
if all his employees grew up like that. The oligarch can be
unemployable, because he will not be employed. Thus the practical and
popular exponent of Eugenics has his face always turned towards the
slums, and instinctively thinks in terms of them. If he talks of
segregating some incurably vicious type of the sexual sort, he is
thinking of a ruffian who assaults girls in lanes. He is not thinking
of a millionaire like White, the victim of Thaw. If he speaks of the
hopelessness of feeble-mindedness, he is thinking of some stunted
creature gaping at hopeless lessons in a poor school. He is not
thinking of a millionaire like Thaw, the slayer of White. And this not
because he is such a brute as to like people like White or Thaw any
more than we do, but because he knows that _his_ problem is the
degeneration of the useful classes; because he knows that White would
never have been a millionaire if all his workers had spent themselves
on women as White did, that Thaw would never have been a millionaire
if all his servants had been Thaws. The ornaments may be allowed to
decay, but the machinery _must_ be mended. That is the second proof of
the plutocratic impulse behind all Eugenics: that no one thinks of
applying it to the prominent classes. No one thinks of applying it
where it could most easily be applied.

A third proof is the strange new disposition to regard the poor as a
_race_; as if they were a colony of Japs or Chinese coolies. It can be
most clearly seen by comparing it with the old, more individual,
charitable, and (as the Eugenists might say) sentimental view of
poverty. In Goldsmith or Dickens or Hood there is a basic idea that
the particular poor person ought not to be so poor: it is some
accident or some wrong. Oliver Twist or Tiny Tim are fairy princes
waiting for their fairy godmother. They are held as slaves, but rather
as the hero and heroine of a Spanish or Italian romance were held as
slaves by the Moors. The modern poor are getting to be regarded as
slaves in the separate and sweeping sense of the negroes in the
plantations. The bondage of the white hero to the black master was
regarded as abnormal; the bondage of the black to the white master as
normal. The Eugenist, for all I know, would regard the mere existence
of Tiny Tim as a sufficient reason for massacring the whole family of
Cratchit; but, as a matter of fact, we have here a very good instance
of how much more practically true to life is sentiment than cynicism.
The poor are _not_ a race or even a type. It is senseless to talk
about breeding them; for they are not a breed. They are, in cold fact,
what Dickens describes: "a dustbin of individual accidents," of
damaged dignity, and often of damaged gentility. The class very
largely consists of perfectly promising children, lost like Oliver
Twist, or crippled like Tiny Tim. It contains very valuable things,
like most dustbins. But the Eugenist delusion of the barbaric breed in
the abyss affects even those more gracious philanthropists who almost
certainly do want to assist the destitute and not merely to exploit
them. It seems to affect not only their minds, but their very
eyesight. Thus, for instance, Mrs. Alec Tweedie almost scornfully
asks, "When we go through the slums, do we see beautiful children?"
The answer is, "Yes, very often indeed." I have seen children in the
slums quite pretty enough to be Little Nell or the outcast whom Hood
called "young and so fair." Nor has the beauty anything necessarily to
do with health; there are beautiful healthy children, beautiful dying
children, ugly dying children, ugly uproarious children in Petticoat
Lane or Park Lane. There are people of every physical and mental type,
of every sort of health and breeding, in a single back street. They
have nothing in common but the wrong we do them.

The important point is, however, that there is more fact and realism
in the wildest and most elegant old fictions about disinherited dukes
and long-lost daughters than there is in this Eugenist attempt to make
the poor all of a piece--a sort of black fungoid growth that is
ceaselessly increasing in a chasm. There is a cheap sneer at poor
landladies: that they always say they have seen better days. Nine
times out of ten they say it because it is true. What can be said of
the great mass of Englishmen, by anyone who knows any history, except
that they have seen better days? And the landlady's claim is not
snobbish, but rather spirited; it is her testimony to the truth in the
old tales of which I spoke: that she _ought not_ to be so poor or so
servile in status; that a normal person ought to have more property
and more power in the State than _that_. Such dreams of lost dignity
are perhaps the only things that stand between us and the
cattle-breeding paradise now promised. Nor are such dreams by any
means impotent. I remember Mr. T.P. O'Connor wrote an interesting
article about Madame Humbert, in the course of which he said that
Irish peasants, and probably most peasants, tended to have a
half-fictitious family legend about an estate to which they were
entitled. This was written in the time when Irish peasants were
landless in their land; and the delusion doubtless seemed all the more
entertaining to the landlords who ruled them and the money-lenders who
ruled the landlords. But the dream has conquered the realities. The
phantom farms have materialised. Merely by tenaciously affirming the
kind of pride that comes after a fall, by remembering the old
civilisation and refusing the new, by recurring to an old claim that
seemed to most Englishmen like the lie of a broken-down lodging-house
keeper at Margate--by all this the Irish have got what they want, in
solid mud and turf. That imaginary estate has conquered the Three
Estates of the Realm.

But the homeless Englishman must not even remember a home. So far from
his house being his castle, he must not have even a castle in the air.
He must have no memories; that is why he is taught no history. Why is
he told none of the truth about the mediæval civilisation except a few
cruelties and mistakes in chemistry? Why does a mediæval burgher never
appear till he can appear in a shirt and a halter? Why does a mediæval
monastery never appear till it is "corrupt" enough to shock the
innocence of Henry VIII.? Why do we hear of one charter--that of the
barons--and not a word of the charters of the carpenters, smiths,
shipwrights and all the rest? The reason is that the English peasant
is not only not allowed to have an estate, he is not even allowed to
have lost one. The past has to be painted pitch black, that it may be
worse than the present.

There is one strong, startling, outstanding thing about Eugenics, and
that is its meanness. Wealth, and the social science supported by
wealth, had tried an inhuman experiment. The experiment had entirely
failed. They sought to make wealth accumulate--and they made men
decay. Then, instead of confessing the error, and trying to restore
the wealth, or attempting to repair the decay, they are trying to
cover their first cruel experiment with a more cruel experiment. They
put a poisonous plaster on a poisoned wound. Vilest of all, they
actually quote the bewilderment produced among the poor by their first
blunder as a reason for allowing them to blunder again. They are
apparently ready to arrest all the opponents of their system as mad,
merely because the system was maddening. Suppose a captain had
collected volunteers in a hot, waste country by the assurance that he
could lead them to water, and knew where to meet the rest of his
regiment. Suppose he led them wrong, to a place where the regiment
could not be for days, and there was no water. And suppose sunstroke
struck them down on the sand man after man, and they kicked and danced
and raved. And, when at last the regiment came, suppose the captain
successfully concealed his mistake, because all his men had suffered
too much from it to testify to its ever having occurred. What would
you think of the gallant captain? It is pretty much what I think of
this particular captain of industry.

Of course, nobody supposes that all Capitalists, or most Capitalists,
are conscious of any such intellectual trick. Most of them are as much
bewildered as the battered proletariat; but there are some who are
less well-meaning and more mean. And these are leading their more
generous colleagues towards the fulfilment of this ungenerous evasion,
if not towards the comprehension of it. Now a ruler of the Capitalist
civilisation, who has come to consider the idea of ultimately herding
and breeding the workers like cattle, has certain contemporary
problems to review. He has to consider what forces still exist in the
modern world for the frustration of his design. The first question is
how much remains of the old ideal of individual liberty. The second
question is how far the modern mind is committed to such egalitarian
ideas as may be implied in Socialism. The third is whether there is
any power of resistance in the tradition of the populace itself. These
three questions for the future I shall consider in their order in the
final chapters that follow. It is enough to say here that I think the
progress of these ideals has broken down at the precise point where
they will fail to prevent the experiment. Briefly, the progress will
have deprived the Capitalist of his old Individualist scruples,
without committing him to his new Collectivist obligations. He is in a
very perilous position; for he has ceased to be a Liberal without
becoming a Socialist, and the bridge by which he was crossing has
broken above an abyss of Anarchy.



If such a thing as the Eugenic sociology had been suggested in the
period from Fox to Gladstone, it would have been far more fiercely
repudiated by the reformers than by the Conservatives. If Tories had
regarded it as an insult to marriage, Radicals would have far more
resolutely regarded it as an insult to citizenship. But in the
interval we have suffered from a process resembling a sort of mystical
parricide, such as is told of so many gods, and is true of so many
great ideas. Liberty has produced scepticism, and scepticism has
destroyed liberty. The lovers of liberty thought they were leaving it
unlimited, when they were only leaving it undefined. They thought they
were only leaving it undefined, when they were really leaving it
undefended. Men merely finding themselves free found themselves free
to dispute the value of freedom. But the important point to seize
about this reactionary scepticism is that as it is bound to be
unlimited in theory, so it is bound to be unlimited in practice. In
other words, the modern mind is set in an attitude which would enable
it to advance, not only towards Eugenic legislation, but towards any
conceivable or inconceivable extravagances of Eugenics.

Those who reply to any plea for freedom invariably fall into a certain
trap. I have debated with numberless different people on these
matters, and I confess I find it amusing to see them tumbling into it
one after another. I remember discussing it before a club of very
active and intelligent Suffragists, and I cast it here for convenience
in the form which it there assumed. Suppose, for the sake of argument,
that I say that to take away a poor man's pot of beer is to take away
a poor man's personal liberty, it is very vital to note what is the
usual or almost universal reply. People hardly ever do reply, for some
reason or other, by saying that a man's liberty consists of such and
such things, but that beer is an exception that cannot be classed
among them, for such and such reasons. What they almost invariably do
say is something like this: "After all, what is liberty? Man must live
as a member of a society, and must obey those laws which, etc., etc."
In other words, they collapse into a complete confession that they
_are_ attacking all liberty and any liberty; that they _do_ deny the
very existence or the very possibility of liberty. In the very form of
the answer they admit the full scope of the accusation against them.
In trying to rebut the smaller accusation, they plead guilty to the
larger one.

This distinction is very important, as can be seen from any practical
parallel. Suppose we wake up in the middle of the night and find that
a neighbour has entered the house not by the front-door but by the
skylight; we may suspect that he has come after the fine old family
jewellery. We may be reassured if he can refer it to a really
exceptional event; as that he fell on to the roof out of an aeroplane,
or climbed on to the roof to escape from a mad dog. Short of the
incredible, the stranger the story the better the excuse; for an
extraordinary event requires an extraordinary excuse. But we shall
hardly be reassured if he merely gazes at us in a dreamy and wistful
fashion and says, "After all, what is property? Why should material
objects be thus artificially attached, etc., etc.?" We shall merely
realise that his attitude allows of his taking the jewellery and
everything else. Or if the neighbour approaches us carrying a large
knife dripping with blood, we may be convinced by his story that he
killed another neighbour in self-defence, that the quiet gentleman
next door was really a homicidal maniac. We shall know that homicidal
mania is exceptional and that we ourselves are so happy as not to
suffer from it; and being free from the disease may be free from the
danger. But it will not soothe us for the man with the gory knife to
say softly and pensively "After all, what is human life? Why should we
cling to it? Brief at the best, sad at the brightest, it is itself but
a disease from which, etc., etc." We shall perceive that the sceptic
is in a mood not only to murder us but to massacre everybody in the
street. Exactly the same effect which would be produced by the
questions of "What is property?" and "What is life?" is produced by
the question of "What is liberty?" It leaves the questioner free to
disregard any liberty, or in other words to take any liberties. The
very thing he says is an anticipatory excuse for anything he may
choose to do. If he gags a man to prevent him from indulging in
profane swearing, or locks him in the coal cellar to guard against his
going on the spree, he can still be satisfied with saying, "After all,
what is liberty? Man is a member of, etc., etc."

That is the problem, and that is why there is now no protection
against Eugenic or any other experiments. If the men who took away
beer as an unlawful pleasure had paused for a moment to define the
lawful pleasures, there might be a different situation. If the men who
had denied one liberty had taken the opportunity to affirm other
liberties, there might be some defence for them. But it never occurs
to them to admit any liberties at all. It never so much as crosses
their minds. Hence the excuse for the last oppression will always
serve as well for the next oppression; and to that tyranny there can
be no end.

Hence the tyranny has taken but a single stride to reach the secret
and sacred places of personal freedom, where no sane man ever dreamed
of seeing it; and especially the sanctuary of sex. It is as easy to
take away a man's wife or baby as to take away his beer when you can
say "What is liberty?"; just as it is as easy to cut off his head as
to cut off his hair if you are free to say "What is life?" There is no
rational philosophy of human rights generally disseminated among the
populace, to which we can appeal in defence even of the most intimate
or individual things that anybody can imagine. For so far as there was
a vague principle in these things, that principle has been wholly
changed. It used to be said that a man could have liberty, so long as
it did not interfere with the liberty of others. This did afford some
rough justification for the ordinary legal view of the man with the
pot of beer. For instance, it was logical to allow some degree of
distinction between beer and tea, on the ground that a man may be
moved by excess of beer to throw the pot at somebody's head. And it
may be said that the spinster is seldom moved by excess of tea to
throw the tea-pot at anybody's head. But the whole ground of argument
is now changed. For people do not consider what the drunkard does to
others by throwing the pot, but what he does to himself by drinking
the beer. The argument is based on health; and it is said that the
Government must safeguard the health of the community. And the moment
that is said, there ceases to be the shadow of a difference between
beer and tea. People can certainly spoil their health with tea or with
tobacco or with twenty other things. And there is no escape for the
hygienic logician except to restrain and regulate them all. If he is
to control the health of the community, he must necessarily control
all the habits of all the citizens, and among the rest their habits in
the matter of sex.

But there is more than this. It is not only true that it is the last
liberties of man that are being taken away; and not merely his first
or most superficial liberties. It is also inevitable that the last
liberties should be taken first. It is inevitable that the most
private matters should be most under public coercion. This inverse
variation is very important, though very little realised. If a man's
personal health is a public concern, his most private acts are _more_
public than his most public acts. The official must deal _more_
directly with his cleaning his teeth in the morning than with his
using his tongue in the market-place. The inspector must interfere
_more_ with how he sleeps in the middle of the night than with how he
works in the course of the day. The private citizen must have much
_less_ to say about his bath or his bedroom window than about his vote
or his banking account. The policeman must be in a new sense a private
detective; and shadow him in private affairs rather than in public
affairs. A policeman must shut doors behind him for fear he should
sneeze, or shove pillows under him for fear he should snore. All this
and things far more fantastic follow from the simple formula that the
State must make itself responsible for the health of the citizen. But
the point is that the policeman must deal primarily and promptly with
the citizen in his relation to his home, and only indirectly and more
doubtfully with the citizen in his relation to his city. By the whole
logic of this test, the king must hear what is said in the inner
chamber and hardly notice what is proclaimed from the house-tops. We
have heard of a revolution that turns everything upside down. But
this is almost literally a revolution that turns everything inside

If a wary reactionary of the tradition of Metternich had wished in the
nineteenth century to reverse the democratic tendency, he would
naturally have begun by depriving the democracy of its margin of more
dubious powers over more distant things. He might well begin, for
instance, by removing the control of foreign affairs from popular
assemblies; and there is a case for saying that a people may
understand its own affairs, without knowing anything whatever about
foreign affairs. Then he might centralise great national questions,
leaving a great deal of local government in local questions. This
would proceed so for a long time before it occurred to the blackest
terrorist of the despotic ages to interfere with a man's own habits in
his own house. But the new sociologists and legislators are, by the
nature of their theory, bound to begin where the despots leave off,
even if they leave off where the despots begin. For them, as they
would put it, the first things must be the very fountains of life,
love and birth and babyhood; and these are always covered fountains,
flowing in the quiet courts of the home. For them, as Mr. H.G. Wells
put it, life itself may be regarded merely as a tissue of births. Thus
they are coerced by their own rational principle to begin all coercion
at the other end; at the inside end. What happens to the outside end,
the external and remote powers of the citizen, they do not very much
care; and it is probable that the democratic institutions of recent
centuries will be allowed to decay in undisturbed dignity for a
century or two more. Thus our civilisation will find itself in an
interesting situation, not without humour; in which the citizen is
still supposed to wield imperial powers over the ends of the earth,
but has admittedly no power over his own body and soul at all. He will
still be consulted by politicians about whether opium is good for
China-men, but not about whether ale is good for him. He will be
cross-examined for his opinions about the danger of allowing Kamskatka
to have a war-fleet, but not about allowing his own child to have a
wooden sword. About all, he will be consulted about the delicate
diplomatic crisis created by the proposed marriage of the Emperor of
China, and not allowed to marry as he pleases.

Part of this prophecy or probability has already been accomplished;
the rest of it, in the absence of any protest, is in process of
accomplishment. It would be easy to give an almost endless catalogue
of examples, to show how, in dealing with the poorer classes at least,
coercion has already come near to a direct control of the relations of
the sexes. But I am much more concerned in this chapter to point out
that all these things have been adopted in principle, even where they
have not been adopted in practice. It is much more vital to realise
that the reformers have possessed themselves of a _principle_, which
will cover all such things if it be granted, and which is not
sufficiently comprehended to be contradicted. It is a principle
whereby the deepest things of flesh and spirit must have the most
direct relation with the dictatorship of the State. They must have it,
by the whole reason and rationale upon which the thing depends. It is
a system that might be symbolised by the telephone from headquarters
standing by a man's bed. He must have a relation to Government like
his relation to God. That is, the more he goes into the inner
chambers, and the more he closes the doors, the more he is alone with
the law. The social machinery which makes such a State uniform and
submissive will be worked outwards from the household as from a
handle, or a single mechanical knob or button. In a horrible sense,
loaded with fear and shame and every detail of dishonour, it will be
true to say that charity begins at home.

Charity will begin at home in the sense that all home children will be
like charity children. Philanthropy will begin at home, for all
householders will be like paupers. Police administration will begin at
home, for all citizens will be like convicts. And when health and the
humours of daily life have passed into the domain of this social
discipline, when it is admitted that the community must primarily
control the primary habits, when all law begins, so to speak, next to
the skin or nearest the vitals--then indeed it will appear absurd that
marriage and maternity should not be similarly ordered. Then indeed it
will seem to be illogical, and it will be illogical, that love should
be free when life has lost its freedom.

So passed, to all appearance, from the minds of men the strange dream
and fantasy called freedom. Whatever be the future of these
evolutionary experiments and their effect on civilisation, there is
one land at least that has something to mourn. For us in England
something will have perished which our fathers valued all the more
because they hardly troubled to name it; and whatever be the stars of
a more universal destiny, the great star of our night has set. The
English had missed many other things that men of the same origins had
achieved or retained. Not to them was given, like the French, to
establish eternal communes and clear codes of equality; not to them,
like the South Germans, to keep the popular culture of their songs;
not to them, like the Irish, was it given to die daily for a great
religion. But a spirit had been with them from the first which fenced,
with a hundred quaint customs and legal fictions, the way of a man who
wished to walk nameless and alone. It was not for nothing that they
forgot all their laws to remember the name of an outlaw, and filled
the green heart of England with the figure of Robin Hood. It was not
for nothing that even their princes of art and letters had about them
something of kings incognito, undiscovered by formal or academic fame;
so that no eye can follow the young Shakespeare as he came up the
green lanes from Stratford, or the young Dickens when he first lost
himself among the lights of London. It is not for nothing that the
very roads are crooked and capricious, so that a man looking down on
a map like a snaky labyrinth, could tell that he was looking on the
home of a wandering people. A spirit at once wild and familiar rested
upon its wood-lands like a wind at rest. If that spirit be indeed
departed, it matters little that it has been driven out by perversions
it had itself permitted, by monsters it had idly let loose.
Industrialism and Capitalism and the rage for physical science were
English experiments in the sense that the English lent themselves to
their encouragement; but there was something else behind them and
within them that was not they--its name was liberty, and it was our
life. It may be that this delicate and tenacious spirit has at last
evaporated. If so, it matters little what becomes of the external
experiments of our nation in later time. That at which we look will be
a dead thing alive with its own parasites. The English will have
destroyed England.



Socialism is one of the simplest ideas in the world. It has always
puzzled me how there came to be so much bewilderment and
misunderstanding and miserable mutual slander about it. At one time I
agreed with Socialism, because it was simple. Now I disagree with
Socialism, because it is too simple. Yet most of its opponents still
seem to treat it, not merely as an iniquity but as a mystery of
iniquity, which seems to mystify them even more than it maddens them.
It may not seem strange that its antagonists should be puzzled about
what it is. It may appear more curious and interesting that its
admirers are equally puzzled. Its foes used to denounce Socialism as
Anarchy, which is its opposite. Its friends seemed to suppose that it
is a sort of optimism, which is almost as much of an opposite. Friends
and foes alike talked as if it involved a sort of faith in ideal human
nature; why I could never imagine. The Socialist system, in a more
special sense than any other, is founded not on optimism but on
original sin. It proposes that the State, as the conscience of the
community, should possess all primary forms of property; and that
obviously on the ground that men cannot be trusted to own or barter
or combine or compete without injury to themselves. Just as a State
might own all the guns lest people should shoot each other, so this
State would own all the gold and land lest they should cheat or
rackrent or exploit each other. It seems extraordinarily simple and
even obvious; and so it is. It is too obvious to be true. But while it
is obvious, it seems almost incredible that anybody ever thought it

I am myself primarily opposed to Socialism, or Collectivism or
Bolshevism or whatever we call it, for a primary reason not
immediately involved here: the ideal of property. I say the ideal and
not merely the idea; and this alone disposes of the moral mistake in
the matter. It disposes of all the dreary doubts of the
Anti-Socialists about men not yet being angels, and all the yet
drearier hopes of the Socialists about men soon being supermen. I do
not admit that private property is a concession to baseness and
selfishness; I think it is a point of honour. I think it is the most
truly popular of all points of honour. But this, though it has
everything to do with my plea for a domestic dignity, has nothing to
do with this passing summary of the situation of Socialism. I only
remark in passing that it is vain for the more vulgar sort of
Capitalist, sneering at ideals, to say to me that in order to have
Socialism "You must alter human nature." I answer "Yes. You must alter
it for the worse."

The clouds were considerably cleared away from the meaning of
Socialism by the Fabians of the 'nineties; by Mr. Bernard Shaw, a
sort of anti-romantic Quixote, who charged chivalry as chivalry
charged windmills, with Sidney Webb for his Sancho Panza. In so far as
these paladins had a castle to defend, we may say that their castle
was the Post Office. The red pillar-box was the immovable post against
which the irresistible force of Capitalist individualism was arrested.
Business men who said that nothing could be managed by the State were
forced to admit that they trusted all their business letters and
business telegrams to the State.

After all, it was not found necessary to have an office competing with
another office, trying to send out pinker postage-stamps or more
picturesque postmen. It was not necessary to efficiency that the
postmistress should buy a penny stamp for a halfpenny and sell it for
twopence; or that she should haggle and beat customers down about the
price of a postal order; or that she should always take tenders for
telegrams. There was obviously nothing actually impossible about the
State management of national needs; and the Post Office was at least
tolerably managed. Though it was not always a model employer, by any
means, it might be made so by similar methods. It was not impossible
that equitable pay, and even equal pay, could be given to the
Postmaster-General and the postman. We had only to extend this rule of
public responsibility, and we should escape from all the terror of
insecurity and torture of compassion, which hag-rides humanity in the
insane extremes of economic inequality and injustice. As Mr. Shaw put
it, "A man must save Society's honour before he can save his own."

That was one side of the argument: that the change would remove
inequality; and there was an answer on the other side. It can be
stated most truly by putting another model institution and edifice
side by side with the Post Office. It is even more of an ideal
republic, or commonwealth without competition or private profit. It
supplies its citizens not only with the stamps but with clothes and
food and lodging, and all they require. It observes considerable level
of equality in these things; notably in the clothes. It not only
supervises the letters but all the other human communications; notably
the sort of evil communications that corrupt good manners. This twin
model to the Post Office is called the Prison. And much of the scheme
for a model State was regarded by its opponents as a scheme for a
model prison; good because it fed men equally, but less acceptable
since it imprisoned them equally.

It is better to be in a bad prison than in a good one. From the
standpoint of the prisoner this is not at all a paradox; if only
because in a bad prison he is more likely to escape. But apart from
that, a man was in many ways better off in the old dirty and corrupt
prison, where he could bribe turnkeys to bring him drink and meet
fellow-prisoners to drink with. Now that is exactly the difference
between the present system and the proposed system. Nobody worth
talking about respects the present system. Capitalism is a corrupt
prison. That is the best that can be said for Capitalism. But it is
something to be said for it; for a man is a little freer in that
corrupt prison than he would be in a complete prison. As a man can
find one jailer more lax than another, so he could find one employer
more kind than another; he has at least a choice of tyrants. In the
other case he finds the same tyrant at every turn. Mr. Shaw and other
rational Socialists have agreed that the State would be in practice
government by a small group. Any independent man who disliked that
group would find his foe waiting for him at the end of every road.

It may be said of Socialism, therefore, very briefly, that its friends
recommended it as increasing equality, while its foes resisted it as
decreasing liberty. On the one hand it was said that the State could
provide homes and meals for all; on the other it was answered that
this could only be done by State officials who would inspect houses
and regulate meals. The compromise eventually made was one of the most
interesting and even curious cases in history. It was decided to do
everything that had ever been denounced in Socialism, and nothing that
had ever been desired in it. Since it was supposed to gain equality at
the sacrifice of liberty, we proceeded to prove that it was possible
to sacrifice liberty without gaining equality. Indeed, there was not
the faintest attempt to gain equality, least of all economic equality.
But there was a very spirited and vigorous effort to eliminate
liberty, by means of an entirely new crop of crude regulations and
interferences. But it was not the Socialist State regulating those
whom it fed, like children or even like convicts. It was the
Capitalist State raiding those whom it had trampled and deserted in
every sort of den, like outlaws or broken men. It occurred to the
wiser sociologists that, after all, it would be easy to proceed more
promptly to the main business of bullying men, without having gone
through the laborious preliminary business of supporting them. After
all, it was easy to inspect the house without having helped to build
it; it was even possible, with luck, to inspect the house in time to
prevent it being built. All that is described in the documents of the
Housing Problem; for the people of this age loved problems and hated
solutions. It was easy to restrict the diet without providing the
dinner. All that can be found in the documents of what is called
Temperance Reform.

In short, people decided that it was impossible to achieve any of the
good of Socialism, but they comforted themselves by achieving all the
bad. All that official discipline, about which the Socialists
themselves were in doubt or at least on the defensive, was taken over
bodily by the Capitalists. They have now added all the bureaucratic
tyrannies of a Socialist state to the old plutocratic tyrannies of a
Capitalist State. For the vital point is that it did not in the
smallest degree diminish the inequalities of a Capitalist State. It
simply destroyed such individual liberties as remained among its
victims. It did not enable any man to build a better house; it only
limited the houses he might live in--or how he might manage to live
there; forbidding him to keep pigs or poultry or to sell beer or
cider. It did not even add anything to a man's wages; it only took
away something from a man's wages and locked it up, whether he liked
it or not, in a sort of money-box which was regarded as a
medicine-chest. It does not send food into the house to feed the
children; it only sends an inspector into the house to punish the
parents for having no food to feed them. It does not see that they
have got a fire; it only punishes them for not having a fireguard. It
does not even occur to it to provide the fireguard.

Now this anomalous situation will probably ultimately evolve into the
Servile State of Mr. Belloc's thesis. The poor will sink into slavery;
it might as correctly be said that the poor will rise into slavery.
That is to say, sooner or later, it is very probable that the rich
will take over the philanthropic as well as the tyrannic side of the
bargain; and will feed men like slaves as well as hunting them like
outlaws. But for the purpose of my own argument it is not necessary to
carry the process so far as this, or indeed any farther than it has
already gone. The purely negative stage of interference, at which we
have stuck for the present, is in itself quite favourable to all these
eugenical experiments. The capitalist whose half-conscious thought and
course of action I have simplified into a story in the preceding
chapters, finds this insufficient solution quite sufficient for his
purposes. What he has felt for a long time is that he must check or
improve the reckless and random breeding of the submerged race, which
is at once outstripping his requirements and failing to fulfil his
needs. Now the anomalous situation has already accustomed him to
stopping things. The first interferences with sex need only be
negative; and there are already negative interferences without number.
So that the study of this stage of Socialism brings us to the same
conclusion as that of the ideal of liberty as formally professed by
Liberalism. The ideal of liberty is lost, and the ideal of Socialism
is changed, till it is a mere excuse for the oppression of the poor.

The first movements for intervention in the deepest domestic concerns
of the poor all had this note of negative interference. Official
papers were sent round to the mothers in poor streets; papers in which
a total stranger asked these respectable women questions which a man
would be killed for asking, in the class of what were called gentlemen
or in the countries of what were called free men. They were questions
supposed to refer to the conditions of maternity; but the point is
here that the reformers did not begin by building up those economic or
material conditions. They did not attempt to pay money or establish
property to create those conditions. They never give anything--except
orders. Another form of the intervention, and one already mentioned,
is the kidnapping of children upon the most fantastic excuses of sham
psychology. Some people established an apparatus of tests and trick
questions; which might make an amusing game of riddles for the family
fireside, but seems an insufficient reason for mutilating and
dismembering the family. Others became interested in the hopeless
moral condition of children born in the economic condition which they
did not attempt to improve. They were great on the fact that crime was
a disease; and carried on their criminological studies so successfully
as to open the reformatory for little boys who played truant; there
was no reformatory for reformers. I need not pause to explain that
crime is not a disease. It is criminology that is a disease.

Finally one thing may be added which is at least clear. Whether or no
the organisation of industry will issue positively in a eugenical
reconstruction of the family, it has already issued negatively, as in
the negations already noted, in a partial destruction of it. It took
the form of a propaganda of popular divorce, calculated at least to
accustom the masses to a new notion of the shifting and re-grouping of
families. I do not discuss the question of divorce here, as I have
done elsewhere, in its intrinsic character; I merely note it as one of
these negative reforms which have been substituted for positive
economic equality. It was preached with a weird hilarity, as if the
suicide of love were something not only humane but happy. But it need
not be explained, and certainly it need not be denied, that the
harassed poor of a diseased industrialism were indeed maintaining
marriage under every disadvantage, and often found individual relief
in divorce. Industrialism does produce many unhappy marriages, for the
same reason that it produces so many unhappy men. But all the reforms
were directed to rescuing the industrialism rather than the happiness.
Poor couples were to be divorced because they were already divided.
Through all this modern muddle there runs the curious principle of
sacrificing the ancient uses of things because they do not fit in with
the modern abuses. When the tares are found in the wheat, the greatest
promptitude and practicality is always shown in burning the wheat and
gathering the tares into the barn. And since the serpent coiled about
the chalice had dropped his poison in the wine of Cana, analysts were
instantly active in the effort to preserve the poison and to pour away
the wine.



The only place where it is possible to find an echo of the mind of the
English masses is either in conversation or in comic songs. The latter
are obviously the more dubious; but they are the only things recorded
and quotable that come anywhere near it. We talk about the popular
Press; but in truth there is no popular Press. It may be a good thing;
but, anyhow, most readers would be mildly surprised if a newspaper
leading article were written in the language of a navvy. Sometimes the
Press is interested in things in which the democracy is also genuinely
interested; such as horse-racing. Sometimes the Press is about as
popular as the Press Gang. We talk of Labour leaders in Parliament;
but they would be highly unparliamentary if they talked like
labourers. The Bolshevists, I believe, profess to promote something
that they call "proletarian art," which only shows that the word
Bolshevism can sometimes be abbreviated into bosh. That sort of
Bolshevist is not a proletarian, but rather the very thing he accuses
everybody else of being. The Bolshevist is above all a bourgeois; a
Jewish intellectual of the town. And the real case against industrial
intellectualism could hardly be put better than in this very
comparison. There has never been such a thing as proletarian art; but
there has emphatically been such a thing as peasant art. And the only
literature which even reminds us of the real tone and talk of the
English working classes is to be found in the comic song of the
English music-hall.

I first heard one of them on my voyage to America, in the midst of the
sea within sight of the New World, with the Statue of Liberty
beginning to loom up on the horizon. From the lips of a young Scotch
engineer, of all people in the world, I heard for the first time these
immortal words from a London music-hall song:--

    "Father's got the sack from the water-works
      For smoking of his old cherry-briar;
    Father's got the sack from the water-works
      'Cos he might set the water-works on fire."

As I told my friends in America, I think it no part of a patriot to
boast; and boasting itself is certainly not a thing to boast of. I
doubt the persuasive power of English as exemplified in Kipling, and
one can easily force it on foreigners too much, even as exemplified in
Dickens. I am no Imperialist, and only on rare and proper occasions a
Jingo. But when I hear those words about Father and the water-works,
when I hear under far-off foreign skies anything so gloriously English
as that, then indeed (I said to them), then indeed:--

    "I thank the goodness and the grace
      That on my birth have smiled,
    And made me, as you see me here,
      A little English child."

But that noble stanza about the water-works has other elements of
nobility besides nationality. It provides a compact and almost perfect
summary of the whole social problem in industrial countries like
England and America. If I wished to set forth systematically the
elements of the ethical and economic problem in Pittsburg or
Sheffield, I could not do better than take these few words as a text,
and divide them up like the heads of a sermon. Let me note the points
in some rough fashion here.

1.--_Father._ This word is still in use among the more ignorant and
ill-paid of the industrial community; and is the badge of an old
convention or unit called the family. A man and woman having vowed to
be faithful to each other, the man makes himself responsible for all
the children of the woman, and is thus generically called "Father." It
must not be supposed that the poet or singer is necessarily one of the
children. It may be the wife, called by the same ritual "Mother." Poor
English wives say "Father" as poor Irish wives say "Himself," meaning
the titular head of the house. The point to seize is that among the
ignorant this convention or custom still exists. Father and the family
are the foundations of thought; the natural authority still comes
natural to the poet; but it is overlaid and thwarted with more
artificial authorities; the official, the schoolmaster, the
policeman, the employer, and so on. What these forces fighting the
family are we shall see, my dear brethren, when we pass to our second
heading; which is:--

2.--_Got the Sack._ This idiom marks a later stage of the history of
the language than the comparatively primitive word "Father." It is
needless to discuss whether the term comes from Turkey or some other
servile society. In America they say that Father has been fired. But
it involves the whole of the unique economic system under which Father
has now to live. Though assumed by family tradition to be a master, he
can now, by industrial tradition, only be a particular kind of
servant; a servant who has not the security of a slave. If he owned
his own shop and tools, he could not get the sack. If his master owned
him, he could not get the sack. The slave and the guildsman know where
they will sleep every night; it was only the proletarian of
individualist industrialism who could get the sack, if not in the
style of the Bosphorus, at least in the sense of the Embankment. We
pass to the third heading.

3.--_From the Water-works._ This detail of Father's life is very
important; for this is the reply to most of the Socialists, as the
last section is to so many of the Capitalists. The water-works which
employed Father is a very large, official and impersonal institution.
Whether it is technically a bureaucratic department or a big business
makes little or no change in the feelings of Father in connection with
it. The water-works might or might not be nationalised; and it would
make no necessary difference to Father being fired, and no difference
at all to his being accused of playing with fire. In fact, if the
Capitalists are more likely to give him the sack, the Socialists are
even more likely to forbid him the smoke. There is no freedom for
Father except in some sort of private ownership of things like water
and fire. If he owned his own well his water could never be cut off,
and while he sits by his own fire his pipe can never be put out. That
is the real meaning of property, and the real argument against
Socialism; probably the only argument against Socialism.

4.--_For Smoking._ Nothing marks this queer intermediate phase of
industrialism more strangely than the fact that, while employers still
claim the right to sack him like a stranger, they are already
beginning to claim the right to supervise him like a son. Economically
he can go and starve on the Embankment; but ethically and hygienically
he must be controlled and coddled in the nursery. Government
repudiates all responsibility for seeing that he gets bread. But it
anxiously accepts all responsibility for seeing that he does not get
beer. It passes an Insurance Act to force him to provide himself with
medicine; but it is avowedly indifferent to whether he is able to
provide himself with meals. Thus while the sack is inconsistent with
the family, the supervision is really inconsistent with the sack. The
whole thing is a tangled chain of contradictions. It is true that in
the special and sacred text of scripture we are here considering, the
smoking is forbidden on a general and public and not on a medicinal
and private ground. But it is none the less relevant to remember that,
as his masters have already proved that alcohol is a poison, they may
soon prove that nicotine is a poison. And it is most significant of
all that this sort of danger is even greater in what is called the new
democracy of America than in what is called the old oligarchy of
England. When I was in America, people were already "defending"
tobacco. People who defend tobacco are on the road to proving that
daylight is defensible, or that it is not really sinful to sneeze. In
other words, they are quietly going mad.

5.--_Of his old Cherry-briar._ Here we have the intermediate and
anomalous position of the institution of Property. The sentiment still
exists, even among the poor, or perhaps especially among the poor. But
it is attached to toys rather than tools; to the minor products rather
than to the means of production. But something of the sanity of
ownership is still to be observed; for instance, the element of custom
and continuity. It was an _old_ cherry-briar; systematically smoked by
Father in spite of all wiles and temptations to Woodbines and gaspers;
an old companion possibly connected with various romantic or diverting
events in Father's life. It is perhaps a relic as well as a trinket.
But because it is not a true tool, because it gives the man no grip on
the creative energies of society, it is, with all the rest of his
self-respect, at the mercy of the thing called the sack. When he gets
the sack from the water-works, it is only too probable that he will
have to pawn his old cherry-briar.

6.--_'Cos he might set the water-works on fire._ And that single line,
like the lovely single lines of the great poets, is so full, so final,
so perfect a picture of all the laws we pass and all the reasons we
give for them, so exact an analysis of the logic of all our
precautions at the present time, that the pen falls even from the
hands of the commentator; and the masterpiece is left to speak for

Some such analysis as the above gives a better account than most of
the anomalous attitude and situation of the English proletarian
to-day. It is the more appropriate because it is expressed in the
words he actually uses; which certainly do not include the word
"proletarian." It will be noted that everything that goes to make up
that complexity is in an unfinished state. Property has not quite
vanished; slavery has not quite arrived; marriage exists under
difficulties; social regimentation exists under restraints, or rather
under subterfuges. The question which remains is which force is
gaining on the other, and whether the old forces are capable of
resisting the new. I hope they are; but I recognise that they resist
under more than one heavy handicap. The chief of these is that the
family feeling of the workmen is by this time rather an instinct than
an ideal. The obvious thing to protect an ideal is a religion. The
obvious thing to protect the ideal of marriage is the Christian
religion. And for various reasons, which only a history of England
could explain (though it hardly ever does), the working classes of
this country have been very much cut off from Christianity. I do not
dream of denying, indeed I should take every opportunity of affirming,
that monogamy and its domestic responsibilities can be defended on
rational apart from religious grounds. But a religion is the practical
protection of any moral idea which has to be popular and which has to
be pugnacious. And our ideal, if it is to survive, will have to be

Those who make merry over the landlady who has seen better days, of
whom something has been said already, commonly speak, in the same
jovial journalese, about her household goods as her household gods.
They would be much startled if they discovered how right they are.
Exactly what is lacking to the modern materialist is something that
can be what the household gods were to the ancient heathen. The
household gods of the heathen were not only wood and stone; at least
there is always more than that in the stone of the hearth-stone and
the wood of the roof-tree. So long as Christianity continued the
tradition of patron saints and portable relics, this idea of a
blessing on the household could continue. If men had not domestic
divinities, at least they had divine domesticities. When Christianity
was chilled with Puritanism and rationalism, this inner warmth or
secret fire in the house faded on the hearth. But some of the embers
still glow or at least glimmer; and there is still a memory among the
poor that their material possessions are something sacred. I know poor
men for whom it is the romance of their lives to refuse big sums of
money for an old copper warming-pan. They do not want it, in any sense
of base utility. They do not use it as a warming-pan; but it warms
them for all that. It is indeed, as Sergeant Buzfuz humorously
observed, a cover for hidden fire. And the fire is that which burned
before the strange and uncouth wooden gods, like giant dolls, in the
huts of ancient Italy. It is a household god. And I can imagine some
such neglected and unlucky English man dying with his eyes on the red
gleam of that piece of copper, as happier men have died with their
eyes on the golden gleam of a chalice or a cross.

It will thus be noted that there has always been some connection
between a mystical belief and the materials of domesticity; that they
generally go together; and that now, in a more mournful sense, they
are gone together. The working classes have no reserves of property
with which to defend their relics of religion. They have no religion
with which to sanctify and dignify their property. Above all, they are
under the enormous disadvantage of being right without knowing it.
They hold their sound principles as if they were sullen prejudices.
They almost secrete their small property as if it were stolen
property. Often a poor woman will tell a magistrate that she sticks to
her husband, with the defiant and desperate air of a wanton resolved
to run away from her husband. Often she will cry as hopelessly, and
as it were helplessly, when deprived of her child as if she were a
child deprived of her doll. Indeed, a child in the street, crying for
her lost doll, would probably receive more sympathy than she does.

Meanwhile the fun goes on; and many such conflicts are recorded, even
in the newspapers, between heart-broken parents and house-breaking
philanthropists; always with one issue, of course. There are any
number of them that never get into the newspapers. And we have to be
flippant about these things as the only alternative to being rather
fierce; and I have no desire to end on a note of universal ferocity. I
know that many who set such machinery in motion do so from motives of
sincere but confused compassion, and many more from a dull but not
dishonourable medical or legal habit. But if I and those who agree
with me tend to some harshness and abruptness of condemnation, these
worthy people need not be altogether impatient with our impatience. It
is surely beneath them, in the scope of their great schemes, to
complain of protests so ineffectual about wrongs so individual. I have
considered in this chapter the chances of general democratic defence
of domestic honour, and have been compelled to the conclusion that
they are not at present hopeful; and it is at least clear that we
cannot be founding on them any personal hopes. If this conclusion
leaves us defeated, we submit that it leaves us disinterested. Ours is
not the sort of protest, at least, that promises anything even to the
demagogue, let alone the sycophant. Those we serve will never rule,
and those we pity will never rise. Parliament will never be surrounded
by a mob of submerged grandmothers brandishing pawn-tickets. There is
no trade union of defective children. It is not very probable that
modern government will be overturned by a few poor dingy devils who
are sent to prison by mistake, or rather by ordinary accident. Surely
it is not for those magnificent Socialists, or those great reformers
and reconstructors of Capitalism, sweeping onward to their scientific
triumphs and caring for none of these things, to murmur at our vain
indignation. At least if it is vain it is the less venal; and in so
far as it is hopeless it is also thankless. They have their great
campaigns and cosmopolitan systems for the regimentation of millions,
and the records of science and progress. They need not be angry with
us, who plead for those who will never read our words or reward our
effort, even with gratitude. They need surely have no worse mood
towards us than mystification, seeing that in recalling these small
things of broken hearts or homes, we are but recording what cannot be
recorded; trivial tragedies that will fade faster and faster in the
flux of time, cries that fail in a furious and infinite wind, wild
words of despair that are written only upon running water; unless,
indeed, as some so stubbornly and strangely say, they are somewhere
cut deep into a rock, in the red granite of the wrath of God.



Round about the year 1913 Eugenics was turned from a fad to a fashion.
Then, if I may so summarise the situation, the joke began in earnest.
The organising mind which we have seen considering the problem of slum
population, the popular material and the possibility of protests, felt
that the time had come to open the campaign. Eugenics began to appear
in big headlines in the daily Press, and big pictures in the
illustrated papers. A foreign gentleman named Bolce, living at
Hampstead, was advertised on a huge scale as having every intention of
being the father of the Superman. It turned out to be a Superwoman,
and was called Eugenette. The parents were described as devoting
themselves to the production of perfect pre-natal conditions. They
"eliminated everything from their lives which did not tend towards
complete happiness." Many might indeed be ready to do this; but in the
voluminous contemporary journalism on the subject I can find no
detailed notes about how it is done. Communications were opened with
Mr. H.G. Wells, with Dr. Saleeby, and apparently with Dr. Karl
Pearson. Every quality desired in the ideal baby was carefully
cultivated in the parents. The problem of a sense of humour was felt
to be a matter of great gravity. The Eugenist couple, naturally
fearing they might be deficient on this side, were so truly scientific
as to have resort to specialists. To cultivate a sense of fun, they
visited Harry Lauder, and then Wilkie Bard, and afterwards George
Robey; but all, it would appear, in vain. To the newspaper reader,
however, it looked as if the names of Metchnikoff and Steinmetz and
Karl Pearson would soon be quite as familiar as those of Robey and
Lauder and Bard. Arguments about these Eugenic authorities, reports of
the controversies at the Eugenic Congress, filled countless columns.
The fact that Mr. Bolce, the creator of perfect pre-natal conditions,
was afterwards sued in a law-court for keeping his own flat in
conditions of filth and neglect, cast but a slight and momentary
shadow upon the splendid dawn of the science. It would be vain to
record any of the thousand testimonies to its triumph. In the nature
of things, this should be the longest chapter in the book, or rather
the beginning of another book. It should record, in numberless
examples, the triumphant popularisation of Eugenics in England. But as
a matter of fact this is not the first chapter but the last. And this
must be a very short chapter, because the whole of this story was cut
short. A very curious thing happened. England went to war.

This would in itself have been a sufficiently irritating interruption
in the early life of Eugenette, and in the early establishment of
Eugenics. But a far more dreadful and disconcerting fact must be
noted. With whom, alas, did England go to war? England went to war
with the Superman in his native home. She went to war with that very
land of scientific culture from which the very ideal of a Superman had
come. She went to war with the whole of Dr. Steinmetz, and presumably
with at least half of Dr. Karl Pearson. She gave battle to the
birthplace of nine-tenths of the professors who were the prophets of
the new hope of humanity. In a few weeks the very name of a professor
was a matter for hissing and low plebeian mirth. The very name of
Nietzsche, who had held up this hope of something superhuman to
humanity, was laughed at for all the world as if he had been touched
with lunacy. A new mood came upon the whole people; a mood of
marching, of spontaneous soldierly vigilance and democratic
discipline, moving to the faint tune of bugles far away. Men began to
talk strangely of old and common things, of the counties of England,
of its quiet landscapes, of motherhood and the half-buried religion of
the race. Death shone on the land like a new daylight, making all
things vivid and visibly dear. And in the presence of this awful
actuality it seemed, somehow or other, as if even Mr. Bolce and the
Eugenic baby were things unaccountably far-away and almost, if one may
say so, funny.

Such a revulsion requires explanation, and it may be briefly given.
There was a province of Europe which had carried nearer to perfection
than any other the type of order and foresight that are the subject
of this book. It had long been the model State of all those more
rational moralists who saw in science the ordered salvation of
society. It was admittedly ahead of all other States in social reform.
All the systematic social reforms were professedly and proudly
borrowed from it. Therefore when this province of Prussia found it
convenient to extend its imperial system to the neighbouring and
neutral State of Belgium, all these scientific enthusiasts had a
privilege not always granted to mere theorists. They had the
gratification of seeing their great Utopia at work, on a grand scale
and very close at hand. They had not to wait, like other evolutionary
idealists, for the slow approach of something nearer to their dreams;
or to leave it merely as a promise to posterity. They had not to wait
for it as for a distant thing like the vision of a future state; but
in the flesh they had seen their Paradise. And they were very silent
for five years.

The thing died at last, and the stench of it stank to the sky. It
might be thought that so terrible a savour would never altogether
leave the memories of men; but men's memories are unstable things. It
may be that gradually these dazed dupes will gather again together,
and attempt again to believe their dreams and disbelieve their eyes.
There may be some whose love of slavery is so ideal and disinterested
that they are loyal to it even in its defeat. Wherever a fragment of
that broken chain is found, they will be found hugging it. But there
are limits set in the everlasting mercy to him who has been once
deceived and a second time deceives himself. They have seen their
paragons of science and organisation playing their part on land and
sea; showing their love of learning at Louvain and their love of
humanity at Lille. For a time at least they have believed the
testimony of their senses. And if they do not believe now, neither
would they believe though one rose from the dead; though all the
millions who died to destroy Prussianism stood up and testified
against it.


Abnormal innocence and abnormal sin, alliance between, 4

Abortion, open advocacy of, 138

Affinity as a bar to marriage, 8

Altruism, remarks on, 111

Anarchy, definition of, 22, 23
  the opposite of Socialism, 159

Anglican Church, the, and question of disestablishment, 75

Aristocratic marriages, Eugenists and, 139 _et seq._

Atheistic literary style, the, 46

Authority versus Reason, 132

Autocrats, Eugenists as, 15

Belloc, Mr., and the Servile State, 21, 165
  rebuked by _The Nation_, 122

Blücher, Marshal, an alleged saying of, 124

Bolce, Mr., the super-Eugenist, 180, 181

Bolshevists, and "proletarian art," 169

Brummell, Mr., vanity of, 96

Burglary, punishment for, 36

Calvinism, immorality of, 126, 127
  in the Middle Ages, 92

Calvinists and the doctrine of free-will, 52

Capitalists, and workmen, 133
  Socialists and, 47

Casuists, Eugenists as, 14

Catholic countries, and the drink traffic, 122

Celtic sadness, and the desolation of Belfast, 121

Chesterton, G.K., and Socialism, 159 _et seq._
  on H.G. Wells, 69
  rebuked by _The Nation_, 122

Children, and non-eugenic unions, 7
  cruelty to: punishment for, 26-7

Christian conception of rebellion, the, 22, 23

Christian religion as protector of the ideal of marriage, 175

Christian serf, how he differed from a pagan slave, 102

Christianity, and freedom, 10

Church teaching, compulsory, 75

Church, the, and question of disestablishment, 75

"Class War, the," and Socialists, 47

Coercion, and control of sex-relationship, 155

Comic songs, and a sermon thereon, 169 _et seq._

Compulsion, and sexual selection, 14, 155

Compulsory education, 95
  vaccination, 77

Concordat, the, and the independence of the Roman Church, 75

Criminals, difference between lunatics and, 34, 35
  proposed vivisection of, 79
  punishment of, 25 _et seq._, 35 _et seq._

Criminology as a disease, 167

Cruelty to children, punishment for, 26-7

Delusions, concrete and otherwise, 32 _et seq._

Disestablishment, author's views on, 75

Doctors, as health advisers of the community, 55, 58
  limits to their knowledge, 57

Education, compulsory, 95

Endeavourers, the, 17

English proletarians, anomalous attitude of, 175

Establishment, author's views on, 75 _et seq._

Ethics, as opposed to Eugenics, 7

Eugenic Law, the first, and negative Eugenics, 19, 28

Eugenic State, beginning of the, 19

Eugenics and employment, 141
  author's conception of, 12
  becomes a fashion, 180
  beginning of, 125
  different meanings of, 4
  essence of, 4
  first principle of, 38
  general definition of, 10
  meanness of the motive of, 136 _et seq._, 146
  moral basis of, 5
  the false theory of, 3 _et seq._
  the real aim of, 91 _et seq._
  versus Ethics, 7

Eugenist, true story of a, 114 _et seq._

Eugenists, and their new morality, 82
  as Casuists, 14
  as employers, 133, 137
  as Euphemists, 12
  their plutocratic impulses, 139 _et seq._
  Mr. Wells' challenge to, 70
  secret of what they really want, 73 _et seq._, 85

Euphemists, Eugenists as, 12

Fabians, and Socialism, 160

Feeble-Minded Bill, the, Eugenists and, 17, 18, 19, 20, 28, 51, 52

Feeble-mindedness, Dr. Saleeby on, 61
  hereditary, 62, 63

Flogging, revival of, 25

Foulon, and the French peasants, 103

Freedom, Christianity and, 10

Free-will disbelieved by Eugenists, 52

Game laws, English, result of the, 110, 112

Golf, a Scotch minister's opinion of, 117

Great War, the, outbreak of, and its effect on Eugenics, 181

Health, and what it is, 59
  Mr. Wells' views on inheritance of, 70, 85-6
  not necessarily allied with beauty, 144
  "Health adviser" of society, the, 55, 58

Hereditary diseases, and marriage, 44

Heredity, and feeble-mindedness, 62, 63
  author's conception of, 64
  incontestable proof of, 66
  three first facts of, 66-7
  unsatisfactory plight of students of, 66
  uselessness of attempting to judge, 39

Housebreaking, punishment for, 36

Household gods of the heathen, 176

Housing problem, the, 164

Hutchinson, Colonel and Mrs., the historic instance of, 7

Huth, A.H., an admission by, 50

Idealists (_see_ Autocrats)

Idiotcy, segregation of, 61

Imperialism, and its aims, 93

Imprisonment, the State and, 25

Incest, the crime of, 8, 9

Indeterminate sentence, the, instrument of, 35
  principle of, 37

Individualism, the experiment of, 130

Individualists, early Victorian, 118

Intervention, Socialistic movements of, 166

Irish peasants, T.P. O'Connor on, 144

Irishman in Liverpool, the, 121

Journalism and the Press of to-day, 73

Kindred and affinity, as a bar to marriage, 8

Law, the, and restrictions on sex, 10
  and the indeterminate sentence, 35
  and the lunatic, 31 _et seq._

Libel, definition of, 28
  loose extension of idea of, 27-8

Liberty and scepticism, 148
  the eclipse of, 149 _et seq._
  the Eugenist's view of, 16

Lodge, Sir Oliver, and "the stud farm," 13, 14

Lunacy, and Eugenic legislation, 17-20, 28, 29, 31 _et seq._
  medical specialists as judges of, 40, 41

Lunacy Law, the old, 38

Lunacy Laws, the, extension of principle of, 17

Lunatic, the, and the law, 31 _et seq._

Lunatics, difference between criminals and, 34, 35

Macdonald, George, and space co-incident, 34

Madman, a, definition of, 32

Madness, degrees of, 32
  medical specialists and, 40, 41
  the essence of, 44
  (_See also_ Lunacy)

Malthus, and his doctrine, 118

Mania, segregation of, 61

Marriage, and question of hereditary disease, 44
  the aim of, 5
  the Christian religion and, 175

Marriages, aristocratic, 139 _et seq._

Marxian Socialists, and Capitalists, 47

Materialism, as the established church, 77
  in speech, 46

Materialists, modern, 128

Medical specialists and madness, 40, 41

Mendicancy laws, result of the, 113

Metternich tradition, the, 154

Midas, 129

Middle Ages, the, 91 _et seq._

Midias, segregation of, 29

Monogamy, author's views on, 176

Morality, and restraints on sex, 8

Neisser, Dr., 79

Newspapers, anarchic tendency of modern, 26
  decadence of present-day, 73

Niagara, comparison of modern world with, 24

Nietzsche, 182

Non-eugenic unions, and children, 7

O'Connor, T.P., on the Irish peasants, 144

Oedipus, and his incestuous marriage, 8

Om, the formless god of the East, 48

_On_, meaning and use of the word, 48

Osborne, Dorothy, and Sir William Temple, 7

Pagan slave, the, difference between Christian serf and, 102

Pearson, Dr. Karl, 50, 65, 181

Peasant art, comic songs as an instance of, 170

Persecution, author's views on, 77 _et seq._

"Platonic friendship," 138

Politics in the Middle Ages, 92

Post Office, the State, 161
  twin model of, 162

Precedenters, the, 17

Press, the, criticisms of, 73, 169

Prevention not better than cure, 55

Preventive medicine, fallacy of, 55

Prison system, the, 162

Procreation, prevention of, 138

Profiteering, author on, 124

"Proletarian art," 169

Property, author's views on, 160

Punishment, extension of, 25

Puritanical moral stories, immorality of, 126

Realities, denial of, 33

Reason versus Authority, 132

Rebellion, Christian conception of, 23
  meaning of, 22

Reform and Repeal, 95

"Relations of the sexes," atheists and, 47

Religion in the Middle Ages, 92

Representative Government, the procedure of, 116

Rockefeller, Mr., 124

Russian Orthodox Church, the, and the State, 75

Saladin, Sultan, 100

Saleeby, Dr., 50
  and a "health-book," 58
  and feeble-mindedness, 61
  and heredity, 68

Saturnalia, the Roman, 24

Scepticism, reactionary, 148

Science and tyranny, 76

Scotland, Church of, 76

Scotland, drunkenness in, 122

Segregation of strong-minded people, a suggested, 51

Serf, the, different from pagan slave, 102

Servile State, the, Mr. Belloc's theory of, 21, 165

Sex-relationship, controlled by coercion, 155

Sexes, the, relations of, 47

Sexual selection a destruction of Eugenics, 9

Shaw, Bernard, 162
  and Sidney Webb, 161
  as Puritan, 69

Slaves, breeding of, 10

Slum children, Mrs. Alec Tweedie and, 143

Smiles, Dr. Samuel, and the English tramp, 119

Snobbishness, an inverted, 117

Socialism as oppressor of the poor, 166

Socialism, the transformation of, 159 _et seq._

Socialist system, foundation of the, 159

Socialists, and "solidarity," 46
  their view of the State, 163

Specialists (medical) and madness, 40, 41

Spiritual pride, an example of, 96

Spiritual world, the, author's belief in, 63

State, the, and compulsion, 14
  Socialist view of, 163

Statistics, fundamental fallacy in use of, 61

Steinmetz, Dr. R.S., 8, 181

Stevenson, R.L., and pre-natal conditions, 45

Temperance Reform, 164

Temple, Sir William, and Dorothy Osborne, 7

Tithes, question of, 75

Tory conception of anarchy, the, 22

Tramp, true history of a, 101 _et seq._

Truant schools. Socialists and, 167

Tweedie, Mrs. Alec, and the children of the slums, 143

Tyranny of government by Science, 76

Vaccination, compulsory, 77

Vanity, hereditary--and other, 62

Victorian Individualists, optimism of, 118
  snobbishness, 117

Wages, "rise and fall of," 47

Webb, Sidney, and Bernard Shaw, 161

Wells, H.G., 55, 154
  author's criticism of, 69-70
  his "Mankind in the Making," 70

White Slave traffic, punishment for, 25

Witchcraft, punishment for, 26

Witch-hunting and witch burning, 63, 64


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